I normally do not respond to printed letters to the editor which appear in the local press. However the Chairman of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors wrote a letter to the editor last week and has made recent comments, which I believe need a response, a response not through a letter to the editor, but in person.
On a couple of occasions I have heard or read comments that the Northampton County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Spencer Murray has made that I wish he had taken time to research before making. The two that I will address this evening concern comments he made about regionalism between Accomack and Northampton Counties in a letter in the January 21, 2018 edition of the Eastern Shore Post and they are Broadband and the Eastern Shore Regional Jail. At the November 21, 2017 meeting of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors, Broadband was discussed and comments were made, one particular comment caught my attention and gave me concern when Chairman Murray began to be critical of the Broadband Authority. He began to criticize the bylaws of the Authority in regards to the appointment process of members to the Authority and in doing so he made the following statement and I quote, “what fools wrote these bylaws.” That statement troubles me because as Chairman his comments can be construed as positions of his Board.
Chairman Murray’s comment calling someone a fool for writing the bylaws of the Authority was shocking to me after I conducted a little research on the creation of the bylaws of the Authority. The contract setting up the Broadband Authority was passed unanimously by both Accomack and Northampton Counties’ Boards of Supervisors on April 15, 2008 and April 8, 2008 respectively. Contained in the contract was the identical language being criticized by Chairman Murray when he called the writers of the bylaws fools, in fact, that language is required by state law. My research also revealed that Chairman Murray was a member of the Northampton County Board of Supervisors on April 8, 2008 and voted for the Broadband contract. The second statement made by Chairman Murray that I will address is a statement he made in his letter to the Eastern Shore Post concerning the Eastern Shore Regional Jail. The last sentence in the section titled “Accomack” ; he states and I quote “When Accomack needs a new jail, it will be built in Accomack.” In that statement Chairman Murray has, in so many words, stated he has unilaterally changed the conditions of the resolution that created the Eastern Shore and the contract that clearly states that Accomack County has the right to construct an addition to the regional jail when it’s jail is no longer usable, that contract was executed by both Boards on August 20, 2003. This resolution and contract saved Northampton County residents millions of dollars. Chairman Murray has no authority to change conditions of the resolution and contract, only both Boards of Supervisors jointly have the authority to amend the contract. More importantly, the changes he said me made, which would prevent Accomack County from construction additions to the facility, are the conditions that allowed the Department of Corrections to approve the facility as a regional jail, thereby, allowing Northampton County to receive a 50% reimbursement from the state for most of the construction cost of the jail as opposed to 25% reimbursement had it not been approved as a regional jail.
At the request of Northampton County Officials, the Accomack County Board of Supervisors agreed to join them in the creation of a regional jail through a resolution and contract clearly stating the conditions including Accomack County would not be responsible for funding the operation of the jail until such time Accomack’s jail was no longer usable and we constructed an addition. Accomack County has complied with all conditions of the regional jail contract, including all conditions dealing with funding, and will continue to do so in the future. I ask that Chairman Murray be more careful with his statements in the future, comments from the Chairman of the Board can be taken as coming from the Board. His statement about the regional jail was ill-advised and could have negative consequences for the residents of Northampton County should the State construe it as an effort to break the resolution and contract. It could put the County in a position where it is forced to repay the reimbursement and that would cost the residents of Northampton County millions of dollars.
Finally, it would have been nice if Chairman Murray had listed, in his letter to the Eastern Shore Post, cooperation under his title “Accomack,” for example, prior to Northampton County Constructing their new jail they had no ability to hold female inmates. To help solve this problem Accomack County agreed to hold their female inmate which prevented their Sheriff from traveling throughout the state. This assistance went on for decades, and I can attest to, because, I was the last Sheriff to allow it prior to the regional jail being built. As a further example of cooperation during a forecast of extreme weather conditions our Vice-Chair Supervisor Hart, our Director of Public Safety C. Ray Pruitt, and others prepare emergency shelters for Accomack county residents at Nandua and Arcadia High Schools. In recent years they have also helped prepare Nandua Middle School as an emergency shelter for the residents of Northampton County Because Northampton doesn’t have a facility that qualifies as a shelter; this is done without cost to their residents.
Accomack County has always been available and willing to assist and cooperate with Northampton County in the past and look forward to our continued assistance and cooperation in the future.
Robert D. Crockett, Chairman
Accomack County Board of Supervisors