Group Files Lawsuit To Block New Jail Construction

A citizens group has filed a lawsuit, hoping to block the construction of a new jail in one Eastern Carolina county.

The "Stop the Jail Committee" filed suit in Beaufort County Superior Court claiming the town of Chocowinity violated Open Meetings Law when it rezoned land at the county industrial park for a new jail.

The group says if necessary it plans to bring other legal action, including challenging the county in borrowing money for the facility without a bond referendum.

"Our taxpayers cannot afford the tax burden of a new jail at this time," said Harold Smith, chairman of the group. "Our newly renovated current jail has met state certification standards. If and when we need a new jail, there should be an open process; that did not occur this time, in which there is broad consultation with all involved and a submission of the borrowing to a referendum of the citizens."

Earlier this year, in a split vote, county commissioners approved the construction of a new 250-inmate jail.

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