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Opening Of New Cumberland County Jail Likely Delayed

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners said that the current county jail is a time bomb waiting to go off.

Currently, more than 400 inmates are housed in the jail built to hold 288. A new jail is almost finished, but county leaders think that they will have to delay the July opening until at least January 2003.

Because of a state budget crunch, Governor Easley plans to withhold more than $2 million from Cumberland County.

County Commissioner Breeden Blackwell said that that loss, increasing Medicaid costs, and the county's current deficit will put Cumberland County at least $5 million in the hole for the upcoming year. The county needs $500,000 to operate the new jail.

"It's an entity that hasn't opened yet. It's not because we don't need it, but when we are scraping for money, like every other county after the governor's bomb he dropped on us Tuesday ... it's put us in a crisis in Cumberland County," Blackwellsaid.

Because of the direct supervision format of the new jail, Sheriff Moose Butler will need 86 additional jailers. Butler has put off hiring and training staff. The new jail is double the size of the old one, but the sheriff says opening just a portion is not an option.

Also on Friday, Cumberland County implemented a hiring freeze and told department heads to submit no-growth budgets.

Cumberland County already has the seventh highest property tax rate in the state. Commissioners do not want to consider another tax hike. Instead, they said that they will continue to urge lawmakers for a one-cent sales tax.


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