On Wednesday, Aug. 26 around 6:30 p.m., the Yadkin County Commissioners met in the conference room at Hoots Memorial Hospital and resumed their meeting as was announced at the end of the Aug. 17 meeting. This meeting was held expressly for the purpose of reviewing itemized bids for repairs to the plumbing at the Yadkin County Jail, in preparation to have this work completed by a Sept. 1st deadline. Upon reconvening the meeting Wednesday, all Commissioners were present excepting Tommy Garner who was said to be out of town. Chairman Chad Wagoner turned the meeting over to Sheriff Cain. Prior to Cain beginning his presentation, Garner arrived at the meeting.
The meeting was scheduled to continue on Wednesday due to Issues with the plumbing In the jail and the need to receive proper bids for the work before It could be voted on for funding. No bids for plumbing work were presented. However, a request for bids compiled by Scott Elliot, an engineer with Consultant Engineering Service, Inc., was presented providing the scope of work and materials needed to bring the plumbing system in the jail up to state requirements. Bids are due by Sept. 8, 2009.
Sheriff Cain read a statement of the issues and concerns of the Sheriff's office to the Board. He provided the Board a written statement reflecting expenditures from July 1, 2006 through June 1, 2009, for housing inmates in other facilities states as follows. Davie County was paid $228,377.11; Watauga County received $158,175.00, North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice was paid $31,780, North Carolina Department of Corrections received $94,779.01, Iredell County received $1,120, Caldwell County was paid $31,409.48, Wilkes County received $4,895, Forsyth County $86,078.70 and Rutherford County was paid $28,289.50.
The change In the meeting focus was due to unexpected events that occurred earlier In the day.
Shortly after the Aug. 17 commissioners, meeting, according to Lt. Tom Helms of the Yadkin County Sheriff's Office, he contacted John Harkins, Chief Inspector of the Jail and Detention Section of the North Carolina Department of Human Services in Raleigh, due to questions he had. In the course of their telephone conversation, it was decided that Harkins would come to the jail and see the issues for himself.
On Wed. Aug. 26, around noon, John Harkins, Chief of the Jail and Detention Section of the North Carolina Department of Human Services in Raleigh came to Yadkinville to check the conditions of the jail himself. Present during his visit were Sheriff Michael Cain, Major Danny Widener, Lt. Tom Helms, Chief Jailer, Barry Day and County Manager Stan Kiser as well as this reporter.
Inmates voiced their opinions regarding the need for a new jail to be built, complained about the water only being warm, and informed the press that people needed to help out Sheriff Cain and get him a new jail.
After the walk thru inspection, all parties excepting the press adjourned to a private meeting behind closed doors at the request of the Chief Inspector.
Several sections of the jail were closed last Thursday and inmates were moved to other facilities. The jail is, however, still open for business according to Lt. Helms. “If someone is arrested, there is a cell available.”
The number of persons who can be held at the Yadkin County location is between three and seven, depending on whom you ask.
According to Helms, only two inmates are currently housed in the jail. One was convicted of failure to pay child support and Is serving a short sentence, and the other is scheduled for a psych evaluation.
Out of 28 beds, seven beds may be used at this time. The Sheriff’s office intends to keep the majority of this space available for new arrests.
Wagoner has not wavered in his support of building the jail at the Hoots Road site.
“You can have as many court orders and as many judge decrees as you wish,” Wagoner said Tuesday,“ but until someone grows a set and takes some action, nothing is going to get done. For all intensive purposes, the jail is closed.”
Wooten remains In opposition to the site on Hoots Road. “This could have all been resolved in 2007, but the other commissioners were against prefabricated steel facilities,” Wooten said. “The issues with the plumbing were going on when I became a commissioner. I tried to convince the board to correct the plumbing problems and the air conditioning in 2006. They refused. If there were a vote and the citizens spoke and the majority said they want it at the Hoots Road site, I would not oppose their decision, despite my personal opinions on what might be best for the future.”
Commissioner David Moxley felt that it would be best if he waited to comment until after the bids for repairs are received. To his knowledge the preparations were all complete to begin building the jail on Hoots Road when he took office. He believes this is the cheapest option.
Commissioner Tommy Garner could not be reached for further comment, however he did make a motion at the meeting on Wed. night that Brady Wooten be placed in charge of a new jail committee. The motion failed for lack of a second. Garner then verbally attacked Wooten. “Brady we all know that you are working with the Hoots Road Gang. At this point in time, I really am ready to let you put up or shut up and let all your cronies know what you’re up to and Mr. Austin with you.”
Garner previously made a motion before the Board at the Aug. 17 commissioner’s meeting, to close the jail. Though it failed in process, it has come to pass with the partial closing of the jail.
Commissioner Kevin Austin stated that he would be more than happy to work and assist to achieve the goal that Sheriff Cain outlined. “He is absolutely correct. We need to get this issue behind us and move forward. I remain confident that thoughtful planning and quick action can meet our current and future needs in a seamless fashion that will be within the means of our budget and taxpayers. I would hope that our architect will work with us to make whatever changes to the existing plans may be necessary. Because of my possible conflict of interest regarding the Hoots Road site, I cannot vote on abandoning that site. Hopefully the remainder of our board will take this action straight away so that we can get busy implementing Sheriff Cain's solution.”
The Board of Commissioners remains split. Decisions have now been forced and the outcome remains to be seen. In the meantime, inmates are being housed wherever space can be located. According to information provided by the Sheriff’s Office the cost of housing inmates for approximately the last three years was $664,903.80. Other options are being researched.
Jail inspections for the past two years consistently reflect problems with plumbing. Inspections completed in July, 2008; January 2009, and July 2009 all mention a problem with the hot and cold water. Sanitation became an issue in July 2009, due in part to pealing paint. Several Issues with the jail are structural In nature and It Is understood that they cannot be repaired.
Though plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the county that Is currently being blamed by several county officials for the present situation with the jail, cannot speak about this issue. Their attorney, Ed Powell provided a statement when asked if he felt the appeal had prompted the actions of the last few weeks. Power responded, “Were it not for the county commissioners making legal errors, a jail might have been built. That is not an issue I can address. One court has told the commissioners that they erred and then they [the commissioners] tried it again. The Plaintiffs appealed the court’s decision relating to the commissioners’ second attempt to illegally rezone the property on Hoots Road. That is an issue that is before the court and not a political question. The citizens are executing their constitutional rights. The Plaintiffs in this matter feel like they represent the feelings of the vast majority of the citizens of Yadkin County.”