When the commissioners meeting reconvened after recess on Monday evening, the major conflicts began. First, it was the company trying to contract with the county on providing the meals for the proposed new jail.
“Aramark wants a seven year contract at a cost of $2.25 per meal with a minimum 100 inmates per day,” Commissioner Brady Wooten said. “They want a higher amount if the number of inmates falls below 100. They will pay .25 rental fee per meal for meals going elsewhere, such as Meals on Wheels or to other jails.”
This prompted a response from Commissioner Tommy Garner.
“We’re never going to have 100 inmates at a time,” Garner said.
In turn, this prompted a reply from county commissioner Stan Kiser.
“It is said, if you build it, they will come,” he said.
Then another aspect was raised.
“With Wilkes County getting ready to build a 280 bed jail, who is going to fill our jail?” asked Commissioner Kevin Austin.
“Wilkes, I’ve heard, is also going to be serving Alleghany and Davie,” he said. “With the distance from here to Alleghany, why would they transport meals from here?” Or transport from here to Davie and then to Alleghany?”
With that, Garner made a cryptic comment.
“I have inside information that there’s no need to go into,” he said. “There’s a conflict down there, that’s all I can say.”
During the commissioners’ comments portion of the meeting, Wooten had plenty to say concerning the Hoots jail issue. As always, his opinion of what should be done did not agree with that of the majority of the board.
“I’ve previewed the budget issues and I think we’ve spent a lot of money over the last couple of years,” Wooten said. “I think that tax increases are realistic on top of reevaluations.
“We have declining sales tax, the lottery funding could be changing with the bill in congress now to eliminate the lottery funds and put the funds in the state’s general fund,” he said. “We could experience a cut in services, we can blame a lot of people from the planning board to the previous town manager, but this board and the previous board accepted these proposals.”
Wooten added that lawyers fees were being paid over this fight, to the tune of $125,000 - $150,000. He added there would be additional bills as the commissioners went to court and lost.
“Sometime we have to be responsible. I think we should take a serious long look at long term planning,” he said. “Facility planning is what we need to do, and draw back on what we are about to do.”
Wooten believed a government complex center for all county services is called for and could be done in planning stages. Some of it would be implemented 25 years down the road and some of it now, he said.
“The county commissioners sitting here now could buckle down, be responsible and make a plan,” said Wooten. “Right now, there’s an estimated $781,000 spent to maintain the current jail. With the new jail another $700,000 would be added on top of that making it an operating cost of $1.5 million approximately. With a daily average of around 50 inmates now that’s too much.”
Wooten went on to list the number of out-of-county inmates Yadkin County would have to house to make the dollars spent work and the cost for housing one inmate per day. He proposed that Yadkin County send their inmates out of county and pay the estimated $45 a day, at today’s cost, compared to $125 cost per day if the new jail is built.
He also held the board responsible for an issue with the North Carolina Department of Energy and Natural Resources. On the jail issue the town does not have an agreement to provide water to that site. In this letter from DENR, it states that ‘it has come to our attention that inaccurate documentation was provided…’.”
Wooten then went on saying how he thought the agreement was phony. After several statements by Wooten calling the documents sent to DENR by the board of commissioners, Chairman Chad Wagoner told Commissioner Wooten that he thought his use of the word phony was wrong. He was joined by county attorney James Graham.
“I don’t believe the document was phony,” Graham said.
After further discussion of the documents, Wooten suggested that the board withdraw the June 11, 2008 documentation that was provided to DENR and ‘have a group of engineers to go back and do it right.’
Graham was asked what the repercussions of this incorrect information being provided would be. Not having the files with him at the meeting, Graham said he could not answer without further research.
Wooten’s arguments continued, asking how their (the county’s), attorney could go into court and argue that there were no grounds for the lawsuit when obviously the water information that was provided to DENR was incorrect.
Wagoner reminded Wooten of the date of the court hearing, April 6, and the date the letter to the commissioners from DENR was dated, April 14. Wagoner stated that obviously the letter was written after the court date, therefore the attorney would have had no knowledge of the incorrect information being provided to DENR.
The conflict of information was the topic of conversation from Wooten for the next 45 minutes. Wooten argued his opinion on the issue of the size and cost of the kitchen and what the constituents of the county wanted.
“They (the constituents), want us to quit spending all this money on lawyers’ fees,” Wooten said.
This set off an exchange with Garner.
“I’ve heard this from constituents outside of here too,” Garner said. “And they’re too dumb to figure out, if they quit suing us, we’ll quit spending money.”
“I think we should do some good planning, not piecemeal, hop-scotching decisions,” Wooten said. “The budget will not get any better, the state dollars won’t be there, we’ll have an additional $700,000 to pay on top of the $781,000 already in the budget.”
“Taxpayers are for or against agendas based on what they want,” Garner said. “They will be against what they don’t like.”
Wagoner then spoke to the issue.
“We’ve had three different sitting boards of commissioners that have voted to build a new jail,” Wagoner said. “There have been two sitting boards that have said Hoots Road is where it needs to go. You bring up that it would cost $45 a day to house inmates outside the county, how long do you thing that will last?”
“Do I think it will go up?” Wooten asked. “Absolutely. Wilkes new jail could house some of ours.”
“How can Wilkes build a jail that can house ours cheaper than we can if we build our own jail?” asked Wagoner. “And I disagree with why we’re being sued. I think its because of the location on Hoots Road, not because of we’re making irresponsible decisions.”
“We’re going against a percentage of what citizens want,” Wooten said. “We need to look at this issue seriously”
The chairman then asked for a vote of Wooten’s motion. Austin asked to be excused from the vote.
“I sought additional legal counsel and I have a conflict of interest because of my business and it (the jail) having a negative impact,” Commissioner Austin said. “I wish to be excused from this vote.”
The board approved Austin’s request.
After several more minutes of conversation and questions regarding the legality of the motion and a vote to change course, the board held the vote.
Wooten was the only one who voted in favor of stopping all action on the jail. Austin was excused from the vote and Wagoner, Moxley and Garner voted against the motion.