Rotary quizzes Brown on prison

First Posted: 12/30/2008

Staff Reporter

Following a presentation about a possible prison in Surry County by Mount Airy Commissioner Dean Brown at the Mount Airy Rotary Club Tuesday luncheon, members questioned Brown on a variety of issues.
Brown told the group that bringing a medium security prison would be a win-win situation in Surry County.
As we watch jobs close up and leave the county, the prison will bring new jobs to the area. Jobs that will be recession proof, Brown said.
Brown said that a committee that is supporting the prison is hoping to approach the state legislature sometime in January. He said Surry County is in the running along with Rockingham County.
If we can get this prison to come here, we will be able to hire 300 people right away to start construction on the facility. The actual facility would cover about 30 acres, but must be located on at least 150 acres of land. Construction would take about two years, Brown said.
Brown explained that in addition to the work that would be provided by the prison, roads would need to be built, water and sewer lines would need to be expanded. He said the prison would employ 400 to 500 full-time workers who would receive full benefits from the state.
This will be a big boost to our economy, he said.
Brown said that not only would the prison help the job market by hiring workers, he said Surry Community College would need to expand training and other local businesses would benefit as well.
Its more money for our economy. It will be more work for local attorneys, because if you are in there, you will want to file appeals to try to get out. Its more money for local motels and restaurants. When grandma comes to visit, she will need a place to stay and somewhere to eat. Visitors will even walk downtown and get a pork chop sandwich, maybe even take a squad-car tour, Brown said as laughter erupted concerning the squad-car tours for people visiting inmates.
Brown assured the group that potential jail breaks would not be a problem for Surry County.
When we visited the facility in Alexander County we observed the security practices. Since that facility has been in operation, they have never had a prison break. And if someone did break out, they are certainly not going to go down on Main Street and whistle at the women. They are going to try get back home get out of the state as soon as possible, Brown said.
Burke Robertson, owner of Burke Robertson & Associates, asked Brown if the inmates are required to work. Brown said yes, all inmates are required to have some type of job. At the Alexander County facility, the inmates make office furniture.
Kate Appler, executive director for the United Fund of Surry, asked if the facility had been defined as far as security goes.
Brown said the facility would be a medium security prison.
Sue Brownfield asked if Surry County is still in the running to get the prison after hearing rumors that the county had lost the bid.
Brown said We are certainly not out of the running.
Laura Whorton asked if a proposed site had been named. Brown answered by saying, The county will have to purchase the land. There are many sites that are proposed. I have had phone calls from people who have land for sale to the county for this.
Albert Blackmon asked Brown who will give the presentation to the state legislators.
The core committee that has set up to work on this will approach the state legislators, Brown said.
Burke Robertson asked how political of a decision will it be for state lawmakers.
I didnt think it was going to be political at all. But I was wrong. I found out that state politics is very political, Brown said.
Betty Ann Collins, president of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, asked Brown if he was still accepting letters of support.
Many of you have already given me letters of support. We really do need these letters so that we can put these in our presentation. We are dangling with the idea with getting the governor(-elect) to come to Mount Airy. Whether she will do it or not, we dont know. But I do need letters from every citizen, every business, church groups and other clubs anyone who wants to support this, Brown said.
Local author Wanda Urbanska asked if having a prison in Surry County would be seen as a positive or negative for the area.
In all of the cases I have read about there has been a positive effect. Ive tried to do the research on that. But what I have found is that it is better to have a bird in the hand than 12 on the bush out there, Brown concluded.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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