Wish list: School, jail

Published 11:40 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

COURTLAND—The replacement of Capron Elementary School and the jail in Courtland remain as the most costly top priorities for Southampton County government.

A new school would cost $10.5 million and a jail, $4.6 million.

The county Planning Commission during its 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, meeting at the County Office Center in Courtland will hold a public hearing for residents to comment on the annual Capital Improvements Plan. The plan calls for high-priority items that total $21 million, medium priority that total $3.8 million and low priority that total $4.8 million.

The likelihood of getting a new school or jail are slim.

“Capron Elementary has been a high priority for at least the last six or seven years,” said County Administrator Mike Johnson. “The jail, I don’t know when it first appeared in the plan.”

Projects likely to be funded will cost much less and could be covered through the county’s operating budget, Johnson said. It’s too early to say what projects might be considered.

The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

School Superintendent Charles Turner did not return a call to The Tidewater News, but it was noted that Capron Elementary has room for 89 students; the school has 187 students. Eighteen pre-kindergarten students go to another school.

The current site is not suitable for a new building because of water and sewer issues and the property is too small. It’s estimated it would cost $350,000 to buy another property and $10 million to build a school to serve 350 students.

As for the 62-year-old jail in Courtland, Sheriff Jack Stutts said the jail, which has capacity for 38 inmates, had 65 on Friday.

“We keep putting them in there,” Stutts said. “We have installed extra bunks to allow for the jail population we normally hold.”

The jail is not set up to house women. They are jailed at out-of-county facilities, which costs more than keeping them in county. The building also is not handicapped accessible.

Stutts said he believes a good place for a new jail would be the former state facility for inmates assigned to roadwork. When the state shut it down, the county purchased the facility and its 50 acres on Rivers Mill Road near Capron for $10 to house work-release inmates. There are 32 inmates housed there.

“It would be an excellent location,” Stutts said. “It has water, electricity and sewer.”

He’s pessimistic about getting a new jail because of the economy.

Some other high-priority projects include:

■ Replacing seven buses for the county school system for $455,000. Some buses are 22 years old; the state recommends replacement at 12 years.

■ Replacing the heating and air-conditioning system at the courthouse for $75,000.

■ Spending $500,000 on the animal pound, which has been overcrowded for many years.

■ Expanding the Cecil W. Rawls Library in Courtland at a cost of $3 million. A study from 2007 indicated an additional 8,131-square-foot section is needed to serve the population.

■ Replacing two pickups in the Public Works Department at $20,000 each. The director’s truck has 250,000 miles and the assistant directors, 225,000 miles.