To The Daily Sun,
Last month a critic attacked the modified Ricci Green plan for a new county jail. He referred to a facility that is being built in Wilkes County, N.C., that is larger than our planned jail and is costing about a quarter as much, according to initial estimates. He suggested that before we commit to a $42 million project we talk to the architect who designed the Wilkes County Jail, Jack Hemphill. As a candidate for commissioner, that sounded like a good idea to me, so I called him.
Mr. Hemphill was gracious and very willing to talk. He told me that Wilkes County is his 33rd jail project and offered a number of design approaches and construction ideas that might be usable to reduce our construction costs. By the way, he has New Hampshire connections: having family here and having designed a sewage treatment plant in Manchester.
The Ricci Greene plan is the product of a well-thought-out professional process that was designed to gather the input of all stakeholders in the jail design. They were very successful in developing a model that will meet our needs based on what we, the people of Belknap County, told them. Their proposal is broad and comprehensive and has served to educate and inform all of us. We now know where the upper cost limit lies and the jail discussion has been brought to a broader public consciousness.
I'm looking forward to the presentation by Ken Ricci scheduled for September, but I also think it prudent and worthwhile to hear what others have to say. Jack Hemphill is one. Ross Cunningham, superintendent of the Sullivan County Jail (more about Sullivan County in another letter), is another. We should look at the various options and ask the same questions of each to best provide for our safety and utilize our precious resources as wisely and prudently as we can. That way we can compare apples to apples as we should and stop comparing apples and oranges.
If this is the kind of thinking you are looking for in a commissioner, then please tell your friends about me, and please vote for me on Nov. 4.
Candidate for Belknap County Commissioner