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Mecklenburg supes bless $85 mil regional jail / April 15, 2010
The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors gave its blessing Monday for the Meherrin River Regional Jail Authority to issue up to $85 million worth of bonds and notes to build and equip a facility to house inmates from Mecklenburg, Brunswick, and Dinwiddie counties.

The supervisors approved resolutions authorizing the sale of 30-year bonds not to exceed $55 million and short-term notes that will finance the portion of construction costs to be reimbursed by the state.

Supervisors W.B. Blalock and Orell Lenhart voted no.

“I won’t vote for a tax increase,” Blalock said.

Consultant Ted Cole reminded supervisors that his firm has done a comparison study and determined that replacing the aging county jail with a regional one “made more sense financially” than building a local facility.

County Administrator Wayne Carter said the study indicated that construction of a local jail would result in a tax increase of 16 cents, whereas building a regional one would result in a 10 cent increase.

Since the estimated cost of the project has declined sharply due to downsizing and lower construction costs, the actual tax increase should be less than expected, perhaps in the range of 2 to 8 cents for the fiscal year starting in July 2012, Carter said.

“The reality is we’re going to have a tax increase just for this one item,” supervisor Jim Jennings commented.

Carter said state reimbursement is “pretty well in place and firm.”

The state is committed to reimburse 50 percent of the cost of building the 400-bed jail facility, which is expected to cost about $65 million.
The regional jail board at its May meeting determined that they will not move forward with the project if there is any change in the state’s commitment. The General Assembly reconvenes Apr. 21 for its veto session.

Construction will begin as soon as the financing is in place.

Carter said the facility — to be built in Brunswick County near Alberta — would be ready to receive inmates in the summer of 2012. Mecklenburg County would incur no out-of-pocket costs until then.

At that point, the regional authority would take over jailing operations for the three counties and the counties would begin paying a per diem to the authority to house inmates, Carter said. The amount of the per diem will depend on the number of prisoners, he said.

When the regional authority begins operating the new jail, the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office will lose 46 employees, Carter said.

Sheriff Danny Fox said he would need some additional staff to compensate for the loss.

In other action, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the issuance of no more than $5 million worth of bonds by the Southside Regional Public Service Authority to build a second cell at the regional landfill this summer.

Cole said the cost of the project is expected to be much lower than $5 million.

Carter said the second cell would be needed by “late this fall.”

The county has budgeted for the expenditure, he said.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a resolution commending the 30-year service of retiring VDOT South Hill residency administrator Dale Goodman and his assistant, staff engineer Richard Moody, who also is retiring.

Goodman introduced new area VDOT administrator, Billy Smith, currently the Amelia residency administrator. Lunenburg County, now part of the Amelia residency, will come under the South Hill office.

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