No juvies here

Published 6:29 pm Tuesday, April 23, 2019

McCarty votes flip kills correctional center in IW

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

After months of bitter controversy that had seemingly divided the county, it all boiled down to one vote, and it came from Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors Chairman William McCarty.

McCarty reversed his longstanding support for a juvenile correctional center near Windsor and cast the deciding vote to kill the project. 

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Isle of Wight’s offer to host the facility on industrial development land south of Windsor had galvanized hundreds of residents in opposition nearly a year. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie and Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree had already voted in February against transferring county-owned property to the state to build the prison, and they again voted against the final terms of the land transfer Thursday.

McCarty’s surprise decision came in a series of two votes. The first was to reject the terms that had been negotiated between the county and the Department of Juvenile Justice. That was followed by another 3-2 vote by the Board to rescind its support for the seminal project — part of the DJJ’s  overall plan to transform the way it rehabilitates youth in its care. 

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson and Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice voted in favor of the terms and against rescinding support for the project. 

The votes came after the state offered to pay all but $50,000 for the water and sewer lines that would have run from Route 460 to the site, which was located about two miles south along Route 258. 

Originally, Isle of Wight had offered $500,000 toward the cost, as well as donating 20 acres of land valued at $200,000. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton also provided data on how much the county had provided in incentives to other businesses in the intermodal park such as Cost Plus, Safco and Green Mountain, and how the DJJ facility came out ahead when the cost per job was computed. 

Keaton said it took nine years for the county to recoup the incentives it gave to CostPlus. 

Other concessions offered by the state included the possibility of using an audible alert in the event of an escape, and phasing in the staffing and inmates at the facility. 

The proposed 60-bed facility was to be designed for males age 14-21 who had committed crimes and who would have come from the Hampton Roads region. The smaller setting would have focused on academic and vocational training as well as providing mental health, substance abuse and emotional treatment and family support.

Prior to the vote on the terms, Rosie quoted a portion of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address — “… that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

“The resounding voice of our community says no,” said Rosie.

He was rewarded with a standing ovation. 

Acree said that comparing private businesses to this project was “apples and oranges.”

“This is different. Our bosses are sitting in this room,” he said.

Acree was also given a standing ovation.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said this project was about helping kids that had a “bad day” and transforming their future.

“I truly believe in the transformation of kids,” said Jefferson.

After the vote, McCarty defended the Board’s transparency throughout the process, eluded to personal attacks and comments made to Board members and his own children and pointed out the level of integrity possessed by each Board member.

“Nothing I can say that will stop that impassioned mentality,” said McCarty of the opposition to the project.

“In the end, you live here,” he said. 

After the votes, DJJ spokesman Greg Davy read a prepared statement outside the Windsor Town Center.

Davy, speaking on behalf of outgoing Director Andrew Block, said the agency was disappointed by the vote, but despite the setback, would not waver in its promise to youth to continue to look for ways to give them a safe and successful future. 

Many who had come to the meeting expecting another outcome changed some of their statements — as the votes were moved up before the public comment portion of the agenda — and thanked the Board for its decision. 

“You have paid attention to the people,” said George Poston. 

What next for the land?

The vote to withdraw support for the youth correctional center has left Isle of Wight with a piece of land carved from a larger parcel. 

Now the county has to decide what to do with those 20 acres that had been set aside for the facility, said Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

The property had been transferred back to the county from the Economic Development Authority for the project. 

Robertson said one decision is whether the county keeps the deed to the property or transfer it back to the EDA.

Isle of Wight has transferred its intermodal park property to the EDA in the past to better facilitate bringing a business to the county.  

While some of the work that has been done preparing for the 60-bed correctional center will have be set aside, the recent wetlands delineation is still good, said Robertson.