By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- The decision to go forward with the regional jail project was the best one of her term, District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli said Tuesday night.
She and several other board members passionately defended the RSW Regional Jail against the harsh criticism they've gotten in recent weeks. The estimated $72 million project will house prisoners from Shenandoah, Warren and Rappahannock counties. The state has pledged to pay about half of the construction costs.
Former District 2 Supervisor Beverley Fleming came to the current panel's defense during its meeting Tuesday.
"It seems to me once a decision's made, that should end the debate," he said. "It occurs to me that many of our folks are misinformed, or they don't understand the procedure of representative government.
"I cannot see the continued harassment of a public body after a decision's been made."
Supervisors Chairman Conrad Helsley agreed there is inaccurate information in the public. For instance, he denied claims that the regional jail population has decreased in recent years, saying the average number of inmates increased about 20 percent between 2009 and 2011.
"Another one of these things that we've been receiving is that the space is adequate, that we don't need any more space," Helsley said. "Of course, back in 2004, when we had the assessment on the jail ... our space wasn't adequate back then. And, it's definitely not adequate now."
The RSW Regional Jail Authority met last week, Helsley said, and he asked the body's attorney what would happen if Shenandoah County pulled out of the agreement.
"The attorney basically said once we've spent the money, and at this point in time you've spent about $4.2 million ... then you're locked in," he said. "You would have to go back to the authority itself and ask to withdraw."
Baroncelli asked Helsley what Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter -- who has been against the regional jail concept for a couple of years -- had to say about the attorney's advice during the regional jail authority meeting.
"He had no comment," Helsley said.
"So, what does he propose?" Baroncelli asked.
Helsley responded, "You will have to ask him."
Baroncelli said the Board of Supervisors spent five years researching a jail solution.
"The amount of misinformation out there is unbelievable," she said. "It's unmanageable, and it's a shame that we're dealing with it three years after we made the decision, which took us five years to reach and research and study."
Baroncelli said residents aren't asking to see the "reams and reams" of data the decision was based on, and that "someone out there [was] starting this mass hysteria saying this can be stopped."
"We made the best decision at that time and I think the best decision in my term that's ever been made," she said.
Baroncelli said jail opponents "don't want to hear the facts."
District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson reiterated his commitment to the regional jail, saying it was in the best interest of taxpayers. He, too, said he's tried to give "facts and figures" to some people, and has been spurned.
"It's what the sheriff says that matters," Ferguson said. "[Carter] does not have to justify his numbers. He just has to say, "I feel this way," and he's the sheriff, and people will accept that."
Some publications with "their own agendas" have presented "lop-sided" information, Ferguson said.