On Thursday, Dec. 13 the Guilford County Board of Commissioners did something that was not a surprise but did so in a surprising way.
The board voted to spend $35,000 to hire the firm of J. Hyatt Hammond Architects to assess the space needs of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and do preliminary design work on a proposed new building to house the Sheriff’s Department administrative functions as well as serve as a home to the state’s parole and probation workers.
That wasn’t a surprise but what was a surprise was the fact that the commissioners did so on a unanimous vote with zero discussion. Some members of the audience in the second floor meeting room of the Old Guilford County Court House had come to witness what they thought might be a hot debate over a controversial matter and the News & Recordwas so interested in the presumed debate that it sent a reporter to a Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting for the first time in about six months. The reporter, Dick Barron, said he was there to cover that issue.
So many were somewhat stunned when the discussion and the entire meeting were – save for a long closed session at the end – over in a blink of an eye. It’s true that Hyatt Hammond is only studying the matter and the commissioners haven’t approved any new building yet, but one reason some in the audience thought there may be a discussion was that the board recently blew over $421,000 on architectural work to renovate the old jail – but now that project isn’t going to happen. So there was some thought that there might at least be one word of discussion on the $35,000 for another project that also might never see the light of day.
Commissioner Jeff Phillips said after the meeting that one reason there was no discussion on the matter Thursday night was that the board had discussed it extensively in a committee meeting with new Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers a little earlier in the month, and the commissioners had hashed out many of the issues at that work session.
The truth is that the commissioners have talked about it quite a bit at the previous threework sessions.
Rogers said after the Dec. 13 meeting that he would love to see a new well designed Law Enforcement Center (LEC) that met the needs of the Sheriff’s Department and of the other services it was meant to house. The proposed and now defunct renovation of the old jail was estimated to cost $17.5 million.
“Can we do it for $17 million or under?” Rogers said of the new LEC project. “We’ll have to see. If we’re going to spend 17 million for an old structure, then let’s get something new.”
He said he was still exploring the options. Rogers said that he had had to come straight out of “campaign mode” and get into sheriff’s mode with no help from his predecessor, former Sheriff BJ Barnes, since Barnes refused to provide any help in the transition.
Barnes has said that there was a meeting scheduled and Rogers blew it off, but Rogers said there was never any meeting scheduled. He said Barnes was simply upset about losing the election.
“If he doesn’t like me, I can’t do anything about that,” Rogers said.