by Sam Hieb
For starters, readers here in Greensboro have to turn to the weekly Rhino Times to get any information on Guilford County government because the daily News & Record has simply ceded coverage. So we read in today’s Rhino that the county’s Board of Commissioners has put the brakes on a $17 million project to renovate the old county jail. (The new Guilford County jail was built with a $100 million bond approved by voters in May 2008.)
The renovations to the old jail would prepare the building to house the Sheriff’s Department’s administrative headquarters and the State of North Carolina’s probation and parole court service workers. However, the $17 million price tag was more than double the estimates the board was given when they began discussing the project. Commissioners were also concerned that, even with that high price tag, this $17 million project didn’t include the demolition of the current Sheriffs Department headquarters – the Otto Zenke building on the same block as the old jail and the new county jail – nor did it include the construction of a planned parking lot to serve the new headquarters.
It’s good to see public officials stand up. Usually when staff presents cost overruns to a board or council they just shrug their heads, vote for the increased funding and say that’s just the way it is. It’s worth noting that longtime Sheriff BJ Barnes –who is up for reelection this year and probably will win another term—“doesn’t consider it a very wise move to put the project on hold.”