Carthage Mayor Candidate Disputes County Over Jail
Bert Patrick, a jail opponent running for mayor of Carthage, strongly disputes statements made in a Pilot interview with county and Carthage officials.
Patrick thinks building a new jail in the heart of Carthage is the top issue facing voters in the mayoral election. Her opponent in the mayor's race is her next-door neighbor, longtime Town Commissioner Tommy Stewart, who doesn't think it is an important issue at all.
Moore County may need more jail space, but a 668-bed detention center a block away from an elementary school, town park and county library is in the wrong place, Patrick says.
In the interview published Oct. 18, Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Lane Carter and Carthage Mayor Ronnie Fields said that the 668-bed number has no relation to what the county actually intends to build. Fields, who is not seeking re-election, works for the Sheriff's Department. The three said they did not know where she got that 668-bed figure.
They should have known, Patrick countered in an interview at the Carthage Historical Museum.
"Picerno called me about the opposition to the jail in July," she said. "He said they only needed about 200 more beds. He said, 'Let's talk about it. That's all we really need.' I reminded him he'd dropped the gavel on a design providing the potential of expansion to house as many as 668 in June."
She had a copy of a document labeled Option 1B that commissioners approved on June 8. Architects prepared it to show commissioners the pros and cons of using a stacked-housing design for the jail expansion. A 192-bed detention center will be part of a public safety complex housing emergency medical services and the 911 call center, magistrates and magistrate's court, and new offices for the Sheriff's Department. It will be linked to the old jail to retain use of its newest 68 beds.
Using stacked housing (a four-story tier of cells) entails additional cost for stairs, elevators and a heavier foundation, and will require any future expansion to be in the form of multilevel units for maximum bed counts, the document says.
'Not a Listed Use'
On the pro side, supporters point out that the center can connect directly to the existing jail, that stacked housing means more parking spaces for other buildings, and that the center could be built on the most accessible part of the Grimm property and is the least costly option.
The part Patrick worries about is its forecast of future expansion possibilities.
The document says there is "good expansion potential on site" that could allow for additional multilevel housing on county-owned property to take the maximum bed count up to 400, plus the existing 68 beds. The acquisition of additional property for future units could take the bed count up to 600, plus the 68 existing beds, according to the document.
A "detention center" is not listed as a permitted use in the Central Business District (CBD), according to town zoning, Patrick said. When the Town Board approved rezoning the Grimm property to CBD, she contends, that should not have meant approval of a detention center.
Her opponent doesn't see it that way. Government offices are permitted uses, and a county jail is a county office, Stewart said.
"In my opinion, it (the new jail) is right where it should be," Stewart said in a telephone interview earlier this week. He had been on the board when it approved the zoning change. "All we did was change that property to CBD, which is just what it should always have been."
Stewart said all the county is really doing is adding 192 new jail beds to bring the total (with the 68 existing beds) up to 260, just as Fields stated. He said it will not be 468 beds or 668 beds.
'Just Not Appropriate'
As the campaign heats up, a lot of numbers have been tossed about. Rumors have been spreading.
"I have heard 800s and 600s and so forth," Stewart said. "A lady in the parking lot at Fred's said we (town commissioners) were all taking kickbacks. If, in the future, they add something, I am sure whoever is on the county commission then will make the best decision in the interest of Carthage and Moore County."
Patrick said a new Town Board can have the town clerk block the detention center by refusing to issue a building permit. The clerk interprets the zoning laws.
"Yes, they have to get a building permit," Stewart said. "But, if an architect draws the plans, I am sure they will meet all the requirements. We would have to give them the permit."
Stewart, who grew up in Carthage, said he has never had the slightest worry about the nearby jail.
"Things I keep hearing are it is too near the Baptist Church, too close to the school, the library," Stewart said. "As far as I am concerned, it's never been anything to worry about. Dale Lambert Jones lived in the jail. Her father was the sheriff, and she grew up living in the jail. The jail was there when they built the school. The jail has been where it is since the 1920s. The present jail was there when the Baptists built their new building."
"I love Carthage," she said. "Its people are sweet people. To put this large a detention center in the center of town is just not appropriate. They (commissioners) just don't appear to care about what we have to say."
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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