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NASHVILLE — Repairs at the Nash County Detention Center are down to less than $30,000 from the original $1,050,000 and plans for jail expansion are moving smoothly, Nash County commissioners were told Monday at their regular monthly meeting.
County engineer Jonathan Boone, director of public utilities and facilities, said repairs and renovations to the current jail were largely complete pending some miscellaneous changes in progress.
He also said Mosley Architects has completed the conceptual design for the 94-bed, two-story addition approved by the county board and are now working on design development plans for review and approval from state and local agencies in January.
Boone said the review would take eight to 10 weeks. The $10 million project is expected to be let out for bid in April and awarded in May. Construction is expected to take 18 months, wrapping up by November 2022.
Jail operations are also going more smoothly with improved staffing and field training, Maj. Allen Wilson of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office reported. The jail currently has 98 inmates — 90 men and eight women. The total capacity is about 173, he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge for the jail as it is everywhere else, he said. A few officers have tested positive and “we did have some potential cases for COVID,” he said.
Wilson said all new inmates are quarantined at least five days before entering the general population and the entire facility is spray-cleaned twice a day, adding that “placing people with like records so far has worked out well,” cutting down on fights.
“We’ve got to get back to some type of visitation, but we’ve been really hesitant to bring anybody back into the facility,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to do video visitation because we do want our inmates to be able to communicate with their families.”
The sheriff’s office hopes to have a video visitation system in place by Jan. 1.
“Hopefully we can keep the virus at bay,” he said, “but it is a locked environment and we’re doing the best we can to keep things safe for our officers and inmates. That’s why we’ve kept it (the virus) at bay as long as we have — they keep things clean.”
The two jail reports were a far cry from last year when the physical condition of the aging jail and problems controlling the inmates led to a state crackdown and local controversy.
County board Chairman Robbie Davis praised Wilson for the department’s COVID-19 response and for the jail’s improved operation.
“It has been a great relief to this board to hear less about the detention center,” he said.
CHARTERS OF FREEDOM
In other business, Boone informed the board that the Foundation Forward Inc., which won the county’s support for installing a Charters of Freedom exhibit on county property in October 2019, was ready to move forward with the project after pandemic-related delays.
The exhibit is a permanent public display of replicas of the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It is intended to be visited by school groups as well as individuals.
Boone said his department recommended that the exhibit be placed on the Drake Street side of the old courthouse. He also recommended that the county create a project committee to work with Foundation Forward.
The proposed committee, he said, should consist of a representative from his department, a representative from the county manager’s office, a commissioner, a business representative and Nash Central High School history teacher Renny Taylor, who first proposed the project.
Commissioners by consensus agreed with the location and selected Commissioner Fred Belfield to serve on the committee.
WATER, SEWER AGREEMENT
In yet another item of business introduced by Boone, the board unanimously approved a proposed oversize agreement for water and/or sewer main extensions.
The new policy allows the county to enter into an agreement to reimburse developers for the incremental cost to install larger sized water and/or sewer mains in areas not currently served by the utility system.
“The developer handles all design, cost and construction, but the county reimburses them for the difference in standards,” Boone said. “It’s a very inexpensive way to get our main feeder lines the way we want them as far as we go.”
Davis noted a similar policy in Rocky Mount had been effective.
3% RAISE FOR COUNTY WORKERS
In other business, County Manager Zee Lamb said the county’s finances had held up unexpectedly well during the pandemic and recommended that county employees receive a 3% raise. He also suggested it be limited to employees making less than $100,000, which he said would affect 10-15 people.
“I feel like those of us at the upper echelon of salaries care more about their employees making the lowest amount of money getting their raises,” he said.
Davis recommended the raise be made effective Jan. 1, noting, “We still have a lot of unknowns related to COVID-19.”
Commissioners Wayne Outlaw and Dan Cone argued for making the raise retroactive to July 1, the beginning of the budget year, which Lamb advised would cost a half million more dollars.
Davis brokered a compromise on Oct. 1 and Lamb agreed. “It would be easier to start Oct. 1 rather than made retroactive.”
“I just want to do whatever we can do for our employees,” Outlaw said.
Commissioners agreed with Oct. 1 by consensus and also insisted that the raise be given to all employees — “Everybody,” said Outlaw.
Lamb announced that the noise committee commissioners created last month to respond to complaints about excessive noise in rural areas has begun to meet.