Public Hearing Set For Proposed New County Jail

A representative from Mosley Architects presents a report on the cost of a new jail to Johnston County Commissioners at their August meeting. Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 6th at 6:00pm to gather comments from citizens. Photo

Although no site has been formally announced by Johnston County Commissioners, a public hearing on a new county jail will be held Wednesday evening.

County Commissioners set the public hearing after receiving a report in August on the pros and cons of building a new jail in Downtown Smithfield versus a site outside of the downtown area.

A report presented to commissioners last month from Mosley Architects indicated a Downtown location would be much more expensive, would house fewer inmates, and would have no additional room for expansion.

Commissioners will receive comments from the public at 6:00pm Wednesday in the Commissioners Meeting Room at the Johnston County Courthouse.

The report said a downtown jail site could only accommodate 300 prisoners, would require 100 to remain housed in the existing jail on the top floor of the courthouse, requiring additional jailors.  It would also require a $7.7 million parking deck to offset at least 150 parking spaces eliminated by the construction. The cost does not include the purchase of numerous businesses and residential properties between South 2nd and South 3rd Streets and between East Johnston and Church Streets.

Construction of a jail downtown would take 12-15 months longer because a parking deck would have to be built first. There would also be a major impact to downtown businesses during the construction phase of the work.

A jail built at a location outside of Downtown Smithfield could easily accommodate 400 prisoners recommended by the study and could more easily be expanded in the future. The report also indicated a downtown site would not have a 50 foot buffer around the facility, which is now being designed into all Public Safety Centers.

Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell has been seeking a new jail since 2008. The county is projected to pay nearly $1 million this year to jails in Wayne, Harnett and Sampson counties to house Johnston County inmates due to overcrowding.