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Regional jail officials want $14.5 million for renovation

Randi B. Hagi

The finance committee for the Middle River Regional Jail board met Tuesday afternoon to discuss funding scenarios if their renovation plan is approved. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

The finance committee, made up of the finance directors of the five jurisdictions that own Middle River Regional Jail, began discussions about how they could pay for a $14.5 million renovation that would include updates to the jail's kitchen, laundry, infirmary, and administrative areas.

This includes the assumption that the state will pitch in 25%. Superintendent Jeffery Newton is presenting an updated Community Based Corrections Plan to the Virginia Board of Local and Regional Jails on Wednesday. He told WMRA he expects that to be approved.

JEFFERY NEWTON: I don't see any reason why it shouldn't. I mean the project is simply pulling out of the already approved project all the support services pieces.

Then, at least four out of the five owner localities would need to approve the project. A timeline for seeking those approvals will be discussed at the authority board's December 7th meeting.

NEWTON:  I think we'll be able to get four of the five jurisdictions if not all five. I mean, we've done a number of tours with elected officials. We've been very clear about what the stress points are … The bigger piece, which is about half of the project, is medical … and our medical unit's too small for the population we have. It wasn't designed for that.

One of the issues complicating the project is that Rockingham County has expressed interest in paying their portion up front in cash, leaving the remaining local governments to take on a 30-year debt.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.