Counties approve jail authority

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Piedmont Regional Jail is in the final steps toward establishing itself as a jail authority.

The authority will replace the current system, which consists of governance by a jail board. Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince Edward, Lunenburg and Nottoway counties currently make up the jail board and will make up the membership of the jail’s authority board.

Creation of the authority has been pending boards of supervisors’ approval in each of the partnering counties.

Lunenburg County Administrator Tracy Gee said the change has been well-received by she and county supervisors.

“The continued regional investment distributes the operational costs across the members rather than each county bearing jail costs alone,” Gee said.

“The new service agreement is more explicit and binding than the original bylaws of the Piedmont Regional Jail Board,” Gee said.

According to Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca Carter, all counties involved have approved the resolutions and appointed representatives for the Regional Jail Authority Board.

“I believe the only edits have been in regards to names of appointees and their addresses,” Carter said in regard to the service agreement that’s been approved.

Each county chose three individuals to be appointed to authority board, including the county administrator, the sheriff and another person.

“The next steps will relate to the transfer of operations and assets from the board to the authority,” Cumberland County Administrator and County Attorney Vivian Giles said.

Involved localities have been approving resolutions and membership to set the authority in motion since November.

The authority has been under consideration by the counties affected since an initial informational meeting in July at Fort Pickett in Nottoway.

According to the signed resolutions, the purpose for creating the authority is “acquiring, constructing, owning, equipping, maintaining and operating regional jail facilities, including, but not limited to, enlarging, renovating and improving such facilities; acquiring the necessary real personal property therefore, with the right of contract with the right of contract for the use of, or to lease, mortgage, or sell any or all of such facilities, including real property.”

According to the documents, the authority board will make decisions which it deems necessary, convenient and applicable to efficient and proper development and operation of the facilities.

With the formation of a jail authority, “a lawsuit against the jail would be against the authority rather than the six member counties,” said Prince Edward’s 101 District/Farmville Supervisor Howard F. Simpson.

In a previous interview, Carter said she believed a jail authority would be beneficial.

“The greatest advantage lies in the reduction of liability for the counties and for jail board members,” Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett previously said.

An authority, unlike a jail board, is a “political subdivision for the commonwealth,” and, as such, is able to shield the counties and board members from being held directly responsible for actions involving the jail.

According to Bartlett, an example of this would be if the jail were to expend funds on a major capital project, the ensuing debt would not be reflected on the county’s budget sheets.

He said the shift of obligation and responsibility would give the authority the option to charge higher housing rates for federal prisoners, effectively transferring repayment responsibility from the counties to the federal government.