WASHINGTON, BEAUFORT COUNTY -

Beaufort County Commissioners traded some harsh words during the latest meeting regarding the county's new jail.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has approved contracts to begin construction of a new jail. However, all of them admitted to not having fully read or understanding the contracts. One commissioner says the new jail project will cause a 15 percent tax rate increase in the county.

The commissioners gathered in an open meeting Thursday morning and approved about $1.9 million for the architect and construction manager of the new jail, so the project can begin. The vote was split 4 to 3.

The four commissioners who were for the vote are being called "the gang of four" by the other three, saying the "gang" consistently votes together on every issue. The contracts were brought to the board Wednesday, leaving them with less than 24 hours to review it. That, commissioners said, resulted in their lack of understanding of the contracts. "Would all the commissioners who have read and understand these documents please raise your hand," said Commissioner Hood Richardson, before the vote. None of the commissioners did so.

The approval resulted in County Commissioner Stan Deatherage saying "You guys are the four stupidest commissioners I've ever seen," to the four in favor. "We don't smoke dope," replied Commissioner Ed Booth. To which Deatherage responded; "Well you should then! Maybe it'll make you smarter!"

"The same thing that goes on in Washington, DC went on in Washington, NC. Vote for it! You can read it tomorrow," said Richardson.

Commissioners say the project will take at least $18 million to complete. The initial $1.9 million will come out of the county's fund balance, which currently sits around $20 million. County officials hope the remaining cost of the contract, plus a reimbursement for the $1.9 million the county has put down, will come from a USDA loan. However, the officials are unsure whether or not they will be approved for the loan. In the event that they are not, the county would still be on the hook for the $1.9 million.

Chairman Jerry Langley said the project is being pushed through quickly because the current jail is too dangerous. Newschannel 12 has recently covered floods and fires there, which have caused the jail to be evacuated. "If in fact a fire were to break out in that jail, a lot of those inmates would not make it out of that jail," said Langley.

Langley admitted to not fully understanding the contracts, but trusting the people put in place to oversee the project to make the right decision, saying, "yes, I scanned it, but my faith is in them."

The new jail would have 250 beds and a 25,000 square feet attachment that will include the Sheriff's Office, a 911 center and an emergency operations center. It will be located at an Industrial Park about 5 miles south of Chocowinity.

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The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has approved contracts to begin construction of a new jail. But one commissioner said the project is expected to raise taxes by up to 15 percent.

The commissioners gathered in an open meeting Thursday morning and approved about $1.9 million for the architect and construction manager of the new jail, so the project can begin.

The new jail will have 250 beds and a 25,000 square feet attachment that will include the Sheriff's Office, a 911 center and an emergency operations center. It will be located at Industrial Park about 5 miles south of Chocowinity.

The $1.9 million is coming from the county's rainy day fund.

Commissioners said the total cost of the jail will be at least $18 million. They said they are hoping to get a loan from the USDA for the remaining cost, but are unsure if they will get that loan.

If they don't get the loan, the county will have to pay the $1.9 million.

Commissioner Stan Deatherage said this project will raise taxes for Beaufort County residents by about 15 percent.

The Beaufort County sheriff said the old jail was poorly built and floods during hurricanes. Most recently, there were power outages at the jail, forcing inmates to be relocated.

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The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will meet Thursday morning to discuss the future of the Beaufort County jail.

Earlier this month, a judge ordered that the county has to build a new jail.

The board will meet to discuss possible contracts for jail building design with Mosely Architects and jail construction management with MB Kahn.

The plan is to build the new jail at the Chocowinity Industrial Park along U.S. 17 South.

In the past, the sheriff has said the jail was poorly built and floods during hurricanes. Most recently, there were power outages at the jail, forcing prisoners to be relocated.