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Beaufort County held heated public hearing on jail financing

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CHOCOWINITY, N.C. - The fight surrounding the building of a new jail in Beaufort County continues.

A public hearing started around 5 p.m. in Washington.

Beaufort County Commissioners spent Monday night arguing with each other over funding a proposed jail in Chocowinity. They also argued with their constituents.

It stemmed from the debate on whether to use a US Department of Agriculture loan to build a jail in Chocowinity. The vote on the loan will come at a later date.

Stop the Jail Committee’s Donna Lay says the jail's price tag is costly and unnecessary.

Chairman Jerry Langley says this jail is necessary.  He says he knows because he served 14 years as a deputy.

The hearing comes a week after the “Stop the Jail “Committee filed a lawsuit against the Town of Chocowinity.  Chairman of the committee, Harold Smith, says the lawsuit stems from a public hearing in Chocowinity in June. Smith says the town failed to provide public access to the meeting, which is  required by law, when it denied entry to the meeting because the building was too small.

Smith says it’s important Beaufort County residents attended Monday’s meeting to make their voices heard.

“There is very little information about the financing of this thing, yet they are trying to hold a public hearing on something that they have disseminated very little information.  It's important that we let people know that this is an unfair practice, it's inappropriate, and it's just wrong,” said Smith.

Commissioner Hood Richardson, along with other concerned citizens, posted flyers about the meeting around the county.

"We did not know about this until we got our commissioners books on Wednesday of last week. It was a great surprise," said Richardson.

Richardson says the hearing is the only time Beaufort County residents will have to voice their opinions about the jail.

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