State to fund most site work for DJJ center

Published 6:32 pm Friday, April 5, 2019

Final vote may be taken at April 18 meeting


Isle of Wight County is off the hook for funding the demolition of a brick ranch house and other preliminary site work on the 20 acres along Walters Highway that the county plans to deed to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice for the construction of a 60-bed youth correctional center.

County Administrator Randy Keaton informed the county’s Board of Supervisors at its Thursday work session that the DJJ agreed to absorb the cost of the demolition and the closing of two septic systems during the latest round of the county’s contract negotiations with the state. The DJJ also reportedly agreed to absorb the cost of closing all but one well, which will remain open during construction for use by the workers. The county has agreed to continue to fund the demolition of a second house on the property, known as the Eure house, as this was already in progress prior to the county’s opening negotiations with the state, Keaton said.

In the original draft of the proposed agreement, the state had requested that the county also fund any needed environmental remediation. Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson explained that this includes checking for and removing hazardous materials such as unused fuel and paint. These items were found in an outbuilding on the Eure property and as such, the cost of their removal will be included in the county’s expense to demolish that property, Robertson said.

Keaton added that the state had also clarified its offer of the right of first refusal to the county should the DJJ abandon the facility. Now, in the event the DJJ abandons the facility, the state will not only offer the county the ability to buy the property before offering it to anyone else, it will also deduct the value of the land the county is giving from the total price of the property.

As for a payment in lieu of taxes, Keaton said he recently spoke with Mike Johnson, the county administrator for Southampton County, regarding what, if anything, Southampton receives from the state for the presence of the Deerfield Correctional Center near the town of Capron. Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors Chairman William McCarty had said during the board’s previous work session in March that such reimbursements already exist for properties owned by local governments that are transferred to the state for adult facilities run by the Department of Corrections.

However, Johnson reportedly told Keaton that Southampton County had not received any sort of payment in lieu of taxes from the state in about 10 years, explaining that Southampton County used to receive around $40,000, but that the state had stopped paying during the recession.

Joe Damico of the Virginia Department of General Services — the agency tasked with the actual construction of the DJJ facility – said that the state still makes a payment in lieu of taxes to the city of Richmond to cover the cost of that city providing fire protection and other emergency services to the state capitol area because there are so many state government facilities in the city, but confirmed that the General Assembly had indeed pulled out of such payments in other Virginia localities.

Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson had also previously remarked that the DJJ does not currently have the authority to grant such a payment, and that if the county wished to pursue this matter, it would need to do so via the General Assembly.

Following Keaton’s presentation, Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice asked Valerie Boykin, deputy director of community programs with the DJJ, whether there would be any additional funding required from the county if and when the facility is built, to which she answered, “No,” and confirmed that the DJJ’s current Bon Air facility in Chesterfield County receives no funding from that county’s government.

Boykin, a Suffolk native, will soon become the new director of the DJJ, taking over for Andrew Block, with whom the county had been dealing since plans for a DJJ facility in Isle of Wight County began. Boykin said that Block announced his departure due to “personal and family reasons.”

We regret the timing of this, but it’s beyond our control,” she said.

Following Grice’s question, Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree read from a prepared statement:

I firmly believe that a successful juvenile rehabilitation program should be in a community that will strongly support its effort,” Acree said. “I think that the DJJ bears a large responsibility of why their program is not embraced by our community. It is my opinion that the DJJ has not performed its job to a satisfactory level. It has failed the juveniles, the citizens and the Board of Supervisors.

The DJJ should have been prepared to share its vision for tomorrow’s juvenile rehabilitation. In the beginning, they should have been insistent on sharing this vision when they thought there was even a possibility of being in Isle of Wight… The DJJ should have been able to share facts, studies, examples and data that supported this ‘new approach’ to rehabilitating juveniles. The age of the people in the program and the level of offenses should have been clearly defined and explained … A clear example that the process has gone off the tracks, in my opinion, is when the Board of Supervisors has the county administrator doing the job of the DJJ. Specifically, the job of presenting the DJJ facts and addressing questions directed toward the DJJ.”

He continued, “This project was intended to be a partnership between the state, the county and our citizens. I do not see a healthy partnership. I believe the DJJ has not acted as a partner and has placed many of its obligations on the Board of Supervisors and county staff. These misplaced obligations have resulted in a division within our citizens and a division between the Board of Supervisors and the citizens we are elected to serve.”

Robertson said that the county government is anticipating the Board of Supervisors to take a final vote on the contract with the state during its meeting on Thursday, April 18, which will be in the Windsor Town Center, located at 23361 Courthouse Highway behind Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor. However, Acree, speaking to The Tidewater News after the meeting, said he hopes this meeting will not be the final vote.