No more sleeping at the prison farm
Soon there will be no more sleeping at the County Prison Farm.
Sheriff BJ Barnes told county commissioners Thursday he will move all farm inmates to the central Detention Center in Greensboro by June 1 to spend the nights. The inmates will continue to work at the farm and on county maintenance assignments during the day. The 20 jailers assigned to the farm also will spend more time in Greensboro.
“I want to be ready so that if you decide to sell the farm or part of it, we can vacate in 90 days,” Barnes said during a Board of Commissioners budget workshop. “This is a more efficient way to operate the farm.
The move will save about $32,000 in utility and other costs. Barnes offered the savings as part of a 2014 budget in which he wants $426,120 for six additional deputies to improve response times to emergency calls in the three rural county districts. Barnes estimated it would cost about $250,000 to close out the farm if commissioners decide to sell it.
The sheriff’s office has operated the 800-acre farm at Gibsonville, the only one in the state, since 1998. Late last year, commissioners considered developing a business park at the farm after a prospect expressed interest, but they learned early this year that it could cost as much as $16 million to provide the needed utilities and roads for a business.
The 30 to 70 medium-security inmates who sleep at the farm will occupy part of the vacant Level 7 in the central jail. Barnes did not open the area last year when the $100 million facility opened because commissioners did not provide enough jailers. The farm prisoners serving time on minor offenses, ranging from failure to pay child support to driving while impaired, will not mingle with the hard-core offenders down below, said Special Projects Capt. Chuck Williamson.
It costs about $3.6 million a year to keep the farm open for the occupational and motivational programs offered there. The farm has a herd of 260 cows and a greenhouse operation. The inmates also raise corn and soybeans. Product sales total about $236,000. Free inmate labor for lawn, building and landscaping maintenance, valued at $10 per hour on the open market, is worth $423,000 to the county.
Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman suggested transferring six jailers to the rural districts.
“We can’t cut staff at the jails,” Williamson said. “We are at a minimum staff now to operate the jails. “We need everyone we have. We have 13 vacancies.”
Overall, Barnes wants $60.6 million from the county next year, up about $2 million from the current budget.
“I have seen the sheriff get more money every year,” said Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point, a frequent of Barnes. “We need to look at savings. I have heard a lot of concerns about the money, but not about the work you do.”
Expenses: The new Detention Center in Greensboro costs $18 million a year to operate and the High Point Jail, $8.3 million. The county prison farm costs $3.6 million to operate and the old Greensboro Jail, with no inmates, about $300,000.
Inmates: On Thursday, there were 588 inmates at the central Detention Center in Greensboro, 300 at the High Point county jail and 42 at the Prison Farm.