First Posted: 7/23/2009
Despite North Carolinas budget crisis, the leader of a prison-recruitment committee in Surry County believes a penal institution remains possible here and says another lobbying trip to Raleigh is planned next week.
The prison project is still active, said Dean Brown, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
I just want everyone to know that, added Brown, who is spearheading the effort that would bring hundreds of jobs to the county.
An intense recruitment effort involving Brown and other committee members has been under way since last fall. Along with garnering support for the project locally, the group has made several trips to the capital to meet with influential lawmakers and other officials to convince them Surry is an ideal location for the next prison constructed in North Carolina.
Recently, however, the states budget crunch has diverted attention from long-range prison-construction needs of the N.C. Department of Correction, which has said three new 1,000-bed facilities will be required in the next decade.
Brown said during an interview Wednesday that the states present financial crisis does not alter the demand for more penal space. Eventually, they will have to build new prisons because the prison populations growing by 20 percent each year.
The original plan was to build three at one time, Brown added.
The local committee leader concedes, however, that it is unrealistic to expect state approval this year for building a prison in Surry County.
Brown believes it could come down to approving bonds at some point, which would generate immediate revenue for construction to be repaid on a long-term basis, or waiting until the next state budget is assembled.
In the meantime, local prison backers want Surry to be in position to receive a correctional institution at the moment state officials are ready to act, which is the reason for the next lobbying visit to Raleigh on Tuesday.
Surry is one of the top contenders, Brown said of its present status.
He said he and a group of about six local representatives will make the trip he hopes will demonstrate to state leaders that the county remains serious about being a prison location. Browns goal is for all members of the N.C. General Assembly to be contacted during the visit.
Were going to go to every legislative office and, if we have time, the Department of Correction, he said.
The group will be passing out written material not only documenting the countys need for new jobs and its dire economic situation overall, but also information about its closeness to major highways and support networks such as hospitals and community colleges.
Brown said other efforts regarding the prison project include a 15-minute radio show he hosts each Wednesday on local stations WSYD and WPAQ at 12:15 p.m. Different topics related to life inside penal institutions are addressed, sometimes with guests such as former prison guards.
Its an ongoing process all the time, Brown said of the effort to bring a prison to Surry.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.