Opponents dig through juvenile detention emails

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Vote set for April 18

The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors is poised to cast the final vote April 18 on the terms of a property transfer to the state to build a 60-bed youth correctional center about two miles south of Route 460 along Route 258. The new facility is part of the state’s effort to transform its rehabilitation of youth charged with crimes. The proposed center would include academic and vocational training, as well as medical, substance abuse and mental health support. 

The 20 acres of county-owned property is part of its intermodal park. The project includes building a water and sewer line to the facility, at a cost of $500,000 to Isle of Wight County, with the state picking up the remainder of the cost. The facility is also expected to generate 240 jobs. 

Exchanges with state, each other date back to December 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

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A leading opponent of the youth correctional center near Windsor spent $877 to track emails and other correspondence on the project from its beginnings in 2017.

The Freedom of Information Act request was made and paid for by Richard J. “Dick” Holland Jr., CEO and chairman of the board of Farmers Bank, a former member of the Economic Development Authority, and an outspoken opponent of the proposed youth facility. 

Holland and a group of residents provided The Smithfield Times with a notebook of the emails and correspondence, spanning a time frame from Dec. 7. 2017 to March 1, 2019. The correspondence is between members of the Board of Supervisors, some residents, the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice and General Services and county staff. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The information begins with initial conversations concerning whether or not Isle of Wight would be a suitable site and concludes with the county attorney informing the state that a deed has been drawn up in anticipation of the final vote on the project, scheduled for April 18. 

Highlights include:

•Isle of Wight was one of about 20 potential sites to be submitted to the state for consideration. (Dec. 7, 2017).

•Isle of Wight County initially told the state that it could participate in a multi-jurisdictional effort to share funding for public transportation. (Transporting families of the incarcerated youth to the facility is a consideration for the future success of the project). (Dec. 15, 2017).

•Isle of Wight Director of Utilities Don Jennings, in a discussion on the utilities, said the county may be taking a risk in putting off potential users based on the perception of having “that” neighbor, and effectively creating a stranded asset, at least in the short term (in reference to the water and sewer lines the county is planning to contribute $500,000 to build). (Dec. 21, 2017).

•The state informed the county that the majority of jobs, 91 out of 240, would have an average pay of $38,270. The overall average for pay for all jobs at the facility would be $61,642. 

•Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice was concerned with meeting with Windsor officials before the project was announced in the newspapers. (Dec. 22, 2017). 

•Board of Supervisors tossed around ideas for the name of the facility in Jan. 2018 to include “Windsor or Walters Adolescent Care Complex,” the “Youth Center for Hope” or the “Teen Center for Corrective Care,” or the “Carrsville Youth Rehabilitation Center.”

•Grice took issue with those opposed to the project, stating that “this not in my backyard and blindsided bull needs to end here and now.”  (July 16, 2018). 

Grice also stated that it would be nice to get support from the new Windsor Mayor, Glyn Willis, but if not, “remaining mute would be better than taking an adversarial position.” (Jan. 2, 2019) Grice also stated, “certain EDA people want to cover your ass. The only people who will show up for a public hearing are the naysayers. If a hundred show up … there are 36,000 people out there that weren’t heard and don’t have a problem with the issue.” (Jan. 4, 2019).

•Isle of Wight hired a public relations professional, former TV newscaster Joel Rubin, to assist with the presentation of information at a cost of $2,635. 

•Rubin suggested to county officials that they not refer to the project as proposed but rather planned as “no one should think you are going to retract commitment to the state.” (Dec. 21, 2018). 

•Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree suggested that slowing down the process might help with the perception that it was being rammed down the throats of residents. Carrsville Supervisor Don Rosie agreed with Acree. (Jan. 17, 2019).

•Isle of Wight Director of Economic Development Chris Morello emailed Jennings about the concerns of EDA Chairman Ron Pack about a four-inch sewer line being inadequate. (Jan. 29, 2019). 

•Isle of Wight County attorney Robert Jones reported Feb. 4, 2019 that the necessary deeds to transfer the property to the state were 90 percent complete. (The vote on transferring the land was made Feb. 21). 

•Jones forwarded a proposed motion to county staff for transferring the land to the state a day before the vote. The proposed motion was requested by Grice, who told Isle of Wight Citizens’ Association Vice President Albert Burckard that he hadn’t shared the details of the motion with his fellow Board members before the vote. 

•Grice provided Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice Director Andrew Block with a list of questions for the evening of the public hearing on Feb. 21. 

•Isle of Wight Citizens’ Association President Lisa Meunier, in an email to Board Chairman William McCarty about letters he had received, said of those opposed to the project, “these south county folks are like two-year-olds who are throwing a tantrum. They need to understand that we are a nation of laws. That might get them to back off a bit. They’re feeling quite emboldened right now.” (Feb. 26, 2019). The Citizens’ Association had voted in favor of the project. 

•When County Administrator Randy Keaton suggested including some residents on a tour of Bon Air (the current state secure youth correctional facility in Chesterfield County), Grice said the only citizen who should be invited is the one who lives across the street from where the proposed facility would be located.  {/mprestriction}