Why vote for little new revenue?
Published 4:39 pm Monday, March 18, 2019
As the previous mayor of Windsor, I feel compelled to defend my former council since they have been portrayed as flip-flopping on the juvenile detention center proposed by the Isle of Wight County Supervisors.
In December 2017 and January 2018, the Isle of Wight County Administrator and Supervisors presented ideas for this project to us. The main benefit they touted was having the state pay to extend sewer and water lines to Phase 3 of the intermodal park where over 900 acres could then be developed. Council stated that economic development would increase tax revenue substantially and help alleviate the tax burden on our residents; however, we would need to have more specific information before we could make a decision to support it. We asked if the county had a current wetlands report approved by the Army Corps of Engineers for the 900 acres. The answer was “no,” but they would do that and get us the report. One of the other questions was if a prison facility was located there, would businesses want to build in that area? The County Administrator [Randy Keaton] then used Pasquotank Correctional facility as an example that had been built in the county where he used to work. He stated that a large area with industry and businesses had later built around it.
Council had not received the wetlands information, as requested, when we were asked by the county to write a letter of support in April so they could see if the state would appropriate the money needed. We considered that Chesapeake did have the funds appropriated for this same project but later decided not to approve it. We wrote a letter carefully stating that based on the information we had at that time, we could support a budget appropriation amendment.
In July, the wetlands report arrived and showed that most of the 900 acres were wetlands and not developable. Council held meetings to discuss this and to listen to residents. They then voted for the first time on this project in September. The vote was to not support it.
The Board of Supervisors announced that a business called Project Bolt was interested in locating adjacent to the facility. Some supervisors attended informational meetings to listen to concerns of residents. Several questions were asked about how much new tax revenue would be collected from this business, and the County Administrator replied that he did not have those numbers. Weeks later we read in the newspaper that it was a business in Windsor. Why was this information withheld from the town? Was it because the town would be losing tax money, and the county would not be receiving much, if any, new tax money from this “new” business?
Numerous questions about safety were also asked. Citizens were told that there had been no escapes from the juvenile facility in Chesterfield and other prisons and that these facilities were safe. Now we have discovered that the Pasquotank Correctional facility, held up as an example to us from the beginning by the county administrator, had an attempted escape in October 2017, just before Council was first approached. Four employees were killed, with many more injured in this incident. Why was this withheld from Windsor Town Council and area residents? Was it withheld from the supervisors, or did they know? Why three votes for very little new revenue and possibly a few unsafe jobs?