Prison project gets boost


First Posted: 1/21/2009

Some days everything just seems to go right, and that was the case Tuesday when a local delegation visited Raleigh as part of efforts to bring a prison to Surry.
Normally, having to drive through a snowstorm is not a good sign for an important trip. But not only did the four local prison supporters experience no problems with the bad weather that gripped much of North Carolina, it also enabled them to meet with a high-ranking state official.
They were scheduled to pitch the proposal for a local prison to an aide of Sen. Marc Basnight, but instead got the opportunity to speak with the leader of the N.C. Senate himself about the prison idea.
Since there was a snowstorm, there was no one who came in but Mr. Basnight, explained Dean Brown, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners who has led efforts to have a state penal facility built in Surry. It is viewed as a way to increase job opportunities and otherwise boost the local economy.
Brown said that Basnight seemed attentive to the idea of a prison in Surry, a facility also highly coveted by several other counties. The eventual decision is to be made by officials at the upper echelon of state government, such as Basnight.
We spent a lot of time with him, Brown said Wednesday, adding that the visit included presenting written materials such as letters of support from Surry citizens and news accounts of the effort that has picked up steam since the fall.
Along with hearing what the Surry representatives had to say about the prison idea, Basnight served them coffee, posed for pictures with them and generally offered up Southern hospitality.
Brown said that Tuesday seemed to be a magical day for the local group, which encountered various accidents on the way to the capital due to the wintry weather. This even included some cases of vehicles striking wreckers trying to respond to accidents.
We just went right through, said Brown, who explained that the people from Surry were riding in a four-wheel-drive BMW.
Brown said he believes Tuesdays events represented a situation in which the Lord was with us all the way.
We didnt slide off the road and when we got there, we met the person we really wanted to meet.
Though Basnight offered no promises concerning a prison in Surry, Brown is encouraged all the same about where the county now stands in the race for a correctional facility.
Were really near the top, he said. We are highly competitive.
Another meeting is planned at Basnights office in early February, according to the Mount Airy commissioner.

Potential Site
The securing of land needed for the facility also is moving closer to reality, according to a Surry County official who is involved with that facet of the project.
Craig Hunter, the chairman of the Surry County Board of Commissioners, indicated Wednesday that the county is still considering different properties. But Hunter added that we have one potential site we are pursuing.
Right now we are just determining if that site can be bought, and if so, at what price and terms, the county commission chairman stated. Other sites are under review and consideration, too.
Hunter declined to identify the location of the potential site.
At least 150 acres are needed for a modern state prison.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected], or at 719-1924.

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