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County to talk jail design, elections

DOBSON — Expenses related to the 2020 elections and the upcoming county jail complex will be up for discussion at Monday’s meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners.

One of the items on the agenda is a budget ordinance to transfer more than $1.45 million from the general fund to an account for professional services to be rendered on the law enforcement and jail facility.

Rhonda Nixon, interim finance officer, prepared an ordinance and budget amendment for the board to approve Monday night.

Before that happens, the commissioners may wish to revisit the project scope which came up for discussion during a finance workshop in November. At that time the commissioners wanted a breakdown in how much specific parts of the correctional facility/sheriff’s office would cost.

Moseley Architects provided the estimates at the board’s only meeting in December.

Developing the site to prepare it for work will cost about $5 million. Site and construction testing will be $240,000-$262,000. Miscellaneous fees and costs add about $3.85 million to $4.2 million, depending on the scope.

The current detention center has space for 125 inmates. A new jail with space for 231 cells and a magistrate’s office would cost about $22.5 million. Adding a new 35,000-square-foot sheriff’s office onto that project would add another $8.75 million. Putting in an 8,000-square-foot 911 center would add $2.8 million.

With a recreation yard, parking lot, other needs and a project contingency fund, Moseley estimated the grand total at more than $54.7 million. Doing the same work, but with a total of 300 beds instead of 231 would raise the cost to $59.64 million.

Without the magistrate’s office, sheriff’s office and 911 center, a 231-bed jail with core facilities big enough to accommodate growth to 450 would cost about $33.74 million, estimated Moseley.

The 300-cell project with the bigger core facilities would come in at $38.77 million.

What did the estimates mean by core facilities?

Some things should be big enough to allow expansion such as sufficient kitchen space, laundry facility space and rec yard. Adding beds later wouldn’t work if the kitchen couldn’t feed the additional inmates, noted members of the sheriff’s office.

Election news

Michella Huff, the new director of the Surry County Board of Elections, will have a few items to bring before the board.

Last week Huff announced that the State Board of Elections had approved consolidating some voting precincts in the four municipalities in Surry County. (For more on that, see “County closing five voting precincts,” Dec. 31 Mount Airy News).

At the meeting she will ask the board to approve the purchase of 28 new voting machines for use in the 2020 elections.

“The approved budget amount was $131,380 to purchase 32 ExpressVote terminals,” Huff wrote in a memo to the board. With the precinct mergers, the need was reduced to 28 terminals.

“We were also able to trade in the iVotronic terminals and printers for a savings of $11,536,” she stated. “This is a total cost savings of $40,856.”

The resolution on the agenda says the final sum to be paid out by the county will be $90,524.

The county elections board’s recommendation came just after an equipment maker pulled out of the voting machine business in this state.

On Dec. 23 the CEO of Clear Ballot said that it was giving up for now on selling its voting machines because of delays in getting certified by the state.

Voting equipment has received more attention and scrutiny nationwide after hackers tried to access U.S. election systems in 2016. After that, North Carolina lawmakers voted to bar touchscreen-only voting equipment from being used in North Carolina. About 20 counties with such machines have had to find replacements.

One more item on the agenda for the elections office is a discussion on a possible ban on temporary structures being erected at polling places.

There have been times when those running for office have set up makeshift tents outside a polling location so that a candidate could campaign actively with those going into the building.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the historic courthouse in Dobson.

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These temporary tents mark the location of supporters for various city candidates in the 2019 election. Up for a discussion Monday is whether such structures should be prohibited. temporary tents mark the location of supporters for various city candidates in the 2019 election. Up for a discussion Monday is whether such structures should be prohibited. Tom Joyce | The News

By Jeff Linville

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.



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