NEW INFO: USDA Denies Funding For New Beaufort County Jail

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The USDA has told Beaufort County it will not contribute $18 million dollars to a new county jail until the project gets the green light from voters.

In a letter to officials in Beaufort County, the federal agency noted the "contentious nature" of the project and said the county must hold a bond referendum in order to get federal funds.

The jail project has been an ongoing issue for Beaufort County since last year. A heated public hearing took place last Monday, where many residents say they oppose a new jail because of potential costs to citizens.

Jail committee chairman Jerry Langley blames the "Stop The Jail Committee" for the USDA's decision, and says it will end up costing taxpayers another $300,000 to $500,000 more in debt service per year.

The jail committee has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday at 3 p.m., but Langley says the funding issue will not be discussed.

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The construction of a new jail is sparking a lot of debate in one county in the east.

Beaufort County residents got a chance to voice their support or disapproval of the plan at a public hearing Monday night. Those in favor say the current jail is dangerous and outdated for workers, but the majority of people who showed up were outraged the plan to finance a new jail is moving forward.

The current jail in Washington houses 85 inmates.

"The facilities that we have are very dilapidated, very old fashioned," said resident Doris Moate.

Three county commissioners oppose the plan including Stan Deatherage, Gary Brinn and Hood Richardson. The three signed a letter opposing the new facility at Monday's meeting and presented the letter to Kimberly Miller of USDA Rural Development.

"The funds that we're seeking, the public safety center itself would be the collateral for the loan," explained Chairman Jerry Langley. "We're not doing it on tax dollars. We're doing it collaterally. There's a difference and that's why the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld it."

Chairman Langley said the jail is a Public Safety facility which would house Emergency Management, 911 operations, the Sheriff's Office and a Detention Center.

The majority of residents seemed to oppose the plan to move forward with the jail.

"We're still paying for a bad electricity deal years ago," said resident Connie Ireland.

No vote took place Monday.

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A variety of topics lie on the table as the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners prepare to discuss them in a meeting Monday evening.

Topics that will be discussed include the recent Belhaven hospital closing and jail construction in Chocowinity.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal will update commissioners on the state of the now closed Vidant Pungo Hospital.

Commissioner Hood Richardson will be prompting a discussion about putting a stop to the new jail that may be built in Chocowinity. Richardson said he wants to address concerns over the town's zoning for the jail.

The public are welcome to listen in on topics being discussed 5 p.m. Monday at the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners' Meeting Room on 121 West 3rd Street in Washington.

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