Publisher's Note: This article originally appeared in the Beaufort Observer.
Keith Kidwell, Chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, made a very constructive presentation to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Monday (10-7-13) night. We'll post the video of his remarks once the video is released, but suffice it to say here that what he called for makes good sense. Regrettably, the response of the Gang of Four (Langley, Booth, Belcher and Klemm) was terribly inept.
Kidwell called for sound planning before a decision is made about what to do about the current jail. You'ld think that goes without say. But it doesn't, in Beaufort County.
Here are some points Kidwell made:
- The "study" the Commissioners are currently touting by Moseley and Associates (architects) is flawed. We've previously documented that fact. Kidwell called for an independent review by expert(s) who do not stand to make financial gain from the results of what is recommended. Moseley plans to be the architects for the project. The more the project costs, the more they make. He illustrated his point by highlighting several mathematical errors in the Moseley reports, some as simple as incorrect addition.
- Kidwell also called for a study of all of the options available for solving "the jail problem." The Jail Committee has considered only building a jail of either of two remote sites. Kidwell suggested an independent study to look at other possibilities, such as reducing the inmate load by various means, such as electronic house arrest for non-violent offenders, contracting out to neighboring counties the overflow of inmates, and objective assessment of building the jail behind the current courthouse as opposed to a remote site.
- He called for transparency in the planning process. He suggested that a more diverse planning group should replace the existing hand-picked (by Langley) committee and he urged the Commission to educate the community on the problem and the alternatives for solving the problem, including submitting the decision to a referendum, pointing out that Article V. Section 4 of the N. C. Constitution says: "The General Assembly shall have no power to authorize any county, city or town, special district, or other unit of local government to contract debts secured by a pledge of its faith and credit unless approved by a majority of the qualified voters of the unit who vote thereon,..." (Note: later in the meeting the Board voted 4 (Klemm, Langley, Booth, Belcher) to 3 (Richardson, Deatherage, Brinn) to NOT submit the issue to the people for a vote.
- He called for a study of the economic impact of building a new jail and particularly the impact on the City of Washington if the jail/sheriff's office etc. is built on a remote site. He pointed out that the Moseley study projects nearly tripling of the cost of operating the current facility if a remote jail is used.
- In speaking of the economic impact of the jail, he focused his strongest comments of the harm a tax increase to pay for the cost of constructing and operating a new jail would have on the already strained taxpayers, many of whom have seen astronomical increases in their property taxes from revaluation, who have suffered from huge increases in their property insurance costs and are now facing large increases in their health insurance costs. He called for a delay in any increase in taxes during this recession.
We think Kidwell is right on target with all of his comments and suggestions.
The group that is so gung ho to build a new jail needs to have valid and solid information about the economic impact of all of the options and they have a duty to educate the public on all of those options.
Using the Moseley numbers for construction and operation of a new remote jail, it is obvious that it would require a large increase in property taxes. According to calculations by Commissioner Hood Richardson. Richardson is know for "doing his homework" it would be at least a 10% increase as possibly as much as a 15% increase (depending on the final deicsions). If he is correct, such an increase would have devastating effects not only on struggling property owners but on everyone in Beaufort County as well. Renters pay property taxes in their rents. And when businesses are hit with increased taxes they either have to cut back their operating expenses and that usually means cutting jobs to reduce payroll costs or they pass along the higher cost of doing business to their customers. If they can't they go out of business. So anyone who lives in Beaufort County or anyone who buys products or services in Beaufort County ends up paying more because property taxes are higher.
Some will argue that the new jail would "increase jobs." But that is not true. The truth is that it would kill many more jobs than are "created." We have previously documented here why the "creation" of government jobs actually hurts the economy rather than helping it. If you don't believe that, as we explain in the link above, then we would implore you to explain why the Obama Stimulus Plan did not lower unemployment, but rather resulted in the loss of more jobs than it created. Simply stated, when government creates a job it takes the money from more productive uses and puts it into less productive uses. Government jobs thus have a "negative multiplier" effect on the economy.
Speaking for the Beaufort County Republican Party, Keith Kidwell has offered the Board of Commissioners a sound rationale and a very reasonable approach to this jail situation. We commend him for it.
Here's the video of his presentation: