Isle of Wight moves ahead with correctional center
Published 6:32 pm Friday, February 22, 2019
Twenty acres to be deeded once final agreement is reached
ISLE OF WIGHT
Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Thursday to authorize the transfer of a 20-acre parcel to the state — subject to a final agreement between the county and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice — for the construction of a 60-bed, state-run juvenile correctional center.
Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice made the motion to do so, and was one of the three who voted in favor of proceeding with the DJJ project. The two dissenting votes came from Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree and Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie.
Prior to the vote, the board had a public hearing on the matter, which drew over a hundred people to the Isle of Wight County administrative complex. By the start of the meeting at 6 p.m., there was standing room only in the boardroom and the lobby outside, and even people waiting outdoors for their chance to speak. Not all who attended the meeting chose to speak, but of the 44 who did, more than half advocated against locating the facility in the Windsor area.
Rex Alphin, who formerly represented the Carrsville District on the Board of Supervisors, said that if this project moves forward, the county would be paying $500,000 to bring water and sewer to an entity that will use very little water, and will pay no real estate tax or machinery and tools tax. “The kicker,” he said, is that “the community in which you desire to place this entity is against it.”
“Take a look around you,” Alphin said. “There are people down the stairway. There are people in the parking lot. The village of Walters is represented here tonight … A community has a right to decide how their particular community is built out.”
Volpe Boykin of Carrsville commented that, “Everything is wonderful, if you live 30 miles away from it.”
He also referred to the juvenile delinquents that would be housed in the facility as “hardened criminals.”
Bentley Richardson, husband to former Windsor mayor Carita Richardson, said that Isle of Wight County has a history of purchasing expensive properties and creating “grand plans” to develop them, such as the Stoup Property in Carrollton, the Blackwater Property near Ivor, and the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park near Windsor.
“None of these have brought in enough tax revenues to pay for the original expenditures; now, we’re burdened with one of the highest debt ratios in the state,” Richardson said. “The vast majority of 983 acres of Phase III [of the intermodal park, where the facility will be located] cannot be developed. Due to the wetlands on the [U.S. Route] 258 corridor from Windsor to Phase III, there is very little development possible.”
Other speakers, however, advocated in favor of the DJJ project. Demetrios Peratsakis, executive director of the Western Tidewater Community Services Board — which is the mental health agency serving Isle of Wight County among other localities — said that the youth who would be housed at the DJJ facilities have all experienced trauma, and that most of these could be rehabilitated and grow up to be productive citizens if they receive the right treatment.
Jessica Jackman of Smithfield added that in her experience as a teacher, she has worked with at-risk youth. She then criticized comments that were made on Monday at Windsor’s town hall meeting on the matter — at which an area resident referred to those who would be incarcerated at the facility as “animals” — and said that youth as young as 14 or 15 who commit rape or murder are often tried as adults.
Col. William Smith, superintendent of the Western Tidewater Regional Jail, confirmed in his comments that according to Virginia law, if a juvenile age 14 or older commits a violent felony, he or she can be tried as an adult, in which case, that person, if convicted, would be sent to an adult facility rather than one like what is being proposed for Isle of Wight County.
Rosie admitted that after hearing the comments that evening, his perspective on the DJJ facility had changed.
“Unless I hear different, most of my constituents on this side of the county do not want the project,” Rosie said. “I will likely have to vote against this project.”
He added that, while he felt it was his job to vote “no” based on his constituents’ desires, he personally believed that the project would add permanent jobs, with pensions and healthcare, and would result in existing DJJ employees moving to the Windsor area.
Acree expressed similar sentiments, stating that, “The only thing I can guarantee as a board member is to do what I said when I got elected, represent the people of the Windsor District.”
He added that he now believes “unconditionally, that the community of Windsor is not the community for this facility.”
Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors had originally discussed waiting until March to vote on whether to move forward with the transfer of land. However, McCarty confirmed at the board’s Feb. 7 work session that the board has the authority by state code to act any time it is gathered.
County Attorney Bobby Jones explained that the action the board took that evening did not actually deed the land to the state, but rather, inform the state that the county was agreeable to deeding the land.
“Without this vote, the state will not negotiate terms,” Jones said.
With the vote now on record, the state can now begin negotiating a final agreement with the county, which will spell out in writing, among other terms, that it agrees to contribute $1 million toward the cost of extending water and sewer service to the parcel, with the county providing the other $500,000. The Board of Supervisors will have to vote on the final contract before the land can be deeded. If the board and the state are unable to come to mutually agreeable terms, plans to locate the facility in Isle of Wight County could still fall through.