Group files lawsuit against Town of Chocowinity over proposed jail

CHOCOWINITY, BEAUFORT COUNTY - A citizens group in Beaufort County have filed the first in what they say may be a series of lawsuits to prevent Beaufort County Commissioners from borrowing money to build a new Beaufort County Jail.

The proposed jail is set to be built in the Chocowinity Industrial Park.

Donna Lay, a spokeswoman for the "Stop the Jail Committee" says the suit names the the Town of Chocowinity, its mayor and the board of commissioners as defendants. Earlier this month commissioners approved rezoning the Chocowinity Industrial Park so that a jail could be built at the location.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Beaufort Superior Court, cites violations of the Open Meetings Law by the town and asks the court to reverse the town's actions.

The group's chairman Harold Smith says, if necessary, the group is prepared to bring more legal actions.

"Our taxpayers cannot afford the tax burden of a new jail at this time. Our newly renovated current jail has met state certification standards. If and when we need a new jail, there should be an open process; that did not occur this time, in which there is broad consultation with all involved and a submission of the borrowing to a referendum of the citizens," said Smith.

Mark Stewart of Burch Law Firm in Greenville confirms they are representing a group of citizens in this matter. They say they have not yet received a response from the Town of Chocowinity.

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