The first full meeting of the new Yadkin County Board of Commissioners lasted approximately two-and-a-half hours on Monday night without raised voices, cursing or confrontation with residents of the county in attendance.
The meeting was filled with policy changes, plans for working toward parks and recreation venues throughout the county, and beginning plans on whether Yadkin County needs a new jail. All this and more was discussed with questions from commissioners and presentations from department heads and outside businesses with civility and respect much to the delight of many of those in attendance.
Yadkin County Manager Aaron Church presented the board with a several options suggesting the opportunities the commissioners had when looking at the jail issue. Of those suggestions, whether or not a new facility should be built based on the number of beds needed was explored as well as looking for a plan to manage inmates while incarcerated to decrease the need for additional jail space.
In response to a request from the commissioners, Church spoke to the board offering options for the jail project.
"There are five steps I've outlined that I feel will help in deciding about the jail," Church said. "The first is to define the problem. The next is to identify possible solutions, analyze the problem and possible solutions, agree on a solution and implement the decision.
Church, as a bit of a background for the new commissioners and those in attendance who may not have been current on the jail issue, told the audience that the county had a 300-page report that was formulated in 2006 in which the problem was defined as not having enough beds in the current jail and the solution to build more beds.
"This report does not address other alternatives for the inmates of the jail," Church said. "Why does this problem exist? Is it because the cases are overwhelming the facility? Who or what is responsible for causing the problem and is it the sheriff's fault for the number of arrests, probably not, or is it the increasing crime rate, probably so.
"Then there is also the issue of if judges give sentences because there is space to confine them, then when the spaces are filled the expense of maintaining the inmates and the facility belongs to the county."
As Church laid out his suggestions for possible alternatives to just deciding to build a new jail, the commissioners asked questions in reference to points in Church's presentation about in home confinement, work farms, working time off a sentence by working on government property and others.
During the discussion, Commissioner Frank Zachary asked if any of the other commissioners had taken a tour of the jail and all responded no. A motion was then made by Commissioner David Moxley to direct Church to look into hiring an inmate management consultant and scheduling a tour of the jail for all the commissioners. The motion was passed unanimously.
During the public comment section of the meeting, resident Pete Knight spoke to the board about the county's flags not being flown at half-mast on Dec. 7 in recognition of the lives lost at Pearl Harbor. Knight told the commissioners that he had made a call to the county to ask that the flags be lowered and was later told that the trees near the flag poles prohibited the flags from being flown lowered. Building and Management Director Todd Vestal spoke to the board and Knight saying that the issue with the tree branches was being worked on and that the flags were lowered at approximately 2 p.m. and apologized for the delay.
Chairman Kevin Austin asked Vestal about his service to his country and he replied that he served in the U.S. Air Force and completely understood Knight's concerns.
N.C. Parks and Recreation Consultant Vonda Martin made a presentation to the board concerning the availability of grant money available to county's who put together an advisory board and wrote grants with the guidance of her department to provide parks and recreation facilities throughout their county.
The former board of commissioners had engaged a landscape architectural firm to put together a plan that the county could implement, but as of the change of the board had not as yet found a plan for the future of the county.
"As a resident of Yadkin County myself, I look forward to working to develop a plan for parks and recreation areas throughout the county," Martin said. "There are funds available and help to write the grants to fund the development. The money is matched dollar for dollar so a $500,000 grant could provide the county with a $1,000,000 in funding for parks and recreation.
"The first step is to create an advisory board and we can help with guidance for the board," she said. "The advisory board goes out to the public and is an extension of the commissioners. We're here to serve you. We are in every local government office that has asked for our help.
"With the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor that will come right through Yadkin County, we're not ready and we need to get ready," Martin said. "Everyones planning dollars are tight, but we have $7,000,000 to distribute in funding and we have 98 applications at present."
Yadkin County Parks and Recreation Director Joe Boyette told the commissioners that no money had been given to the engineering firm previously chosen and that the funding could be used to hire a firm with experience in planning for the county's future. The board then decided to take Boyette and Martin's recommendations under advisement.
The commissioners also discussed a new roofing system for the courthouse as well as the applicant progress for a new board of health director. Information on the remainder of the meeting will appear in an article in next week's edition of The Ripple.