Jail Committee rearranges the deck chairs on the Titanic | Eastern North Carolina Now | The video below of the April 23, 2014 Beaufort County Jail Committee meeting depicts a phenomenal event in the history of Beaufort County.

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    Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.

    The video below of the April 23, 2014 Beaufort County Jail Committee meeting depicts a phenomenal event in the history of Beaufort County. As you watch the video consider this:

    First, the irony of these "planning experts" traveling to Beaufort County to present all of these detailed plans for a new jail and law enforcement and what-have-you project we will simply call The Jail. These are people who make their living anticipating every eventuality of a construction project.

    Second, consider four men who fancy themselves as being capable of spending 60 million dollars of other people's money which they confiscate by brute force from thousands of people who are struggling to make their financial ends meet. And they ask almost no questions about how this project can be made to cost less. What you hear are the architects report on their meetings with stakeholders (i.e. people who have a vested interested in having the poshest facility they can imagine) who want "more" of this and that and not one of these four men challenge these dreams.

    But here're are the really phenomenal things that are never mentioned by any of these smart people—just as those people rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic just before it hit an iceberg:

    1. They may not even have a site to do this project. The county's application for rezoning of the site was recently denied by the Chocowinity Planning Board. It remains to be seen whether the Chocowinity Town Board, which has the final say on whether a jail can be built on this site, does not meet until May 6. But the Committee does not even mention this "iceberg" event nor how it might get the project approved by the Town Board or what it will do if the Chocowinity Town Board follows the recommendation of its Planning Board.

    2. Not one word is mentioned about the recent announcement by Duke Energy that it has selected the Chocowinity Industrial Park as one of five sites in the state that it is having a major study done on to determine the most effective way to develop those sites for industries that are searching to relocate. Not one word about the possible impact that building a jail might have on the plans Duke is working on. In fact, just watching the video one has to wonder if these brilliant planners even know about Duke's announcement.

    3. This meeting took place the day following a candidates' forum of commissioner candidates that had three candidates saying they will vote to stop the project if they are elected. Given that the current board has only a one vote majority to move forward with this project and that one vote (Al Klemm) will definitely not be on the board come December, one would wonder if perhaps someone might have suggested that it might be smart to slow this thing down so no more money than possible will be wasted if the election results in fact scrap the project.

    4. The Committee appears oblivious to the fact that a group of citizens (Stop the Jail Committee—see ad at the top of this page) is currently raising money to file a lawsuit to stop this project.

    Whether one wishes to characterize this meeting as "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" or "planning via sticking your head in the sand" or "fiddling while Rome burns" it was an amazing event.

    But let us tell you what is going on.

    Yes all four of these smart people know of the three events listed above. But they don't care. They are hell-bent on getting The Jail built, or at least built enough, before they lose their majority on the County Commission.

    Reliable sources tell us they are even planning on robbing the County's fund balance (the savings account that covers the County's cash flow demands and serves as an emergency fund for catastrophic events such as hurricanes) to fund the project and thus leave the new Board of Commissioners with no alternative but to borrow millions of dollars to replace the fund balance this lame duck board has already spent. But it is our understanding that these brilliant people have not even gotten the necessary approvals for such financing.

    Now, with that background, watch these planning experts and the Titanic captains rearrange deck chairs:

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