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The Daily Tar Heel

Hillsborough residents start petition against proposed Detention Center

Board of County Commissioners Nov. 9

The Orange County Board of Commissioners met Nov. 9. 

Orange County has proposed a location for a new detention center and agricultural facility. In response, a group of upset residents created a petition requesting the facility to be moved. 

The Orange County Board of Commissioners has drawn up a prospective campus for the new development, just south of Highway 70 in Hillsborough. Despite the fact that the proposed location is further away from town than the current jail, residents who live nearby were not pleased. 

“We are concerned about the adverse effects that the increased traffic, night-time lighting, and construction and operation noise will have on our children, and our farm animals,” stated a petition created by local home and farm owners. 

Penny Rich, BOCC vice chair, said she understands the resistance to building a new detention center.  

“We want to hear everybody’s concerns — funding a detention center is never, ever an easy thing to do," she said. "It doesn’t feel good — just the word detention or jail."

Rich personally toured the current jail and emphasized just how important the new detention center is, citing that the current jail is not healthy for both the detainees held there and the staff working inside. 

The creator of the petition, David O’Neal, said that building the jail in the currently proposed area will cause harm to nearby animals and increase traffic in the region. He also questioned the cost effectiveness of constructing a whole new jail as opposed to refurbishing the current jail.

“I don't just want these places to be built in someone else's backyard, that's not what this is about...  what I hope the county commissioners and the town board will examine is do we NEED these expansions?” O’Neal, a small farm owner, said in an email. 

The costs of refurbishing the current jail would outweigh constructing a new building. Rich said  funding for the jail wouldn’t interfere with any other budgets, such as education, and that construction would go smoothly. 

“We’re not going to reinvent the wheel — we know what these buildings need to look like,” Rich said. 

O’Neal plans to keep his petition open for signatures, as it has had a response far larger than he expected. 

“I initially had hoped for a few hundred people to sign, but at last count we were at around 800 and I am now anticipating maybe over 1000 before time to present it to the Board of County Commissioners,” he said. 

Rich said the board hasn't discussed the petition formally, but they were aware of its presence. She said she expects this is an issue that will continue to be raised at meetings but remains adamant about the need for a new detention center. 

“The truth of the matter is we need to have a new detention center. The one that we have is very, very old, outdated — it’s beyond repair," she said. "It’s inhumane to hold people in this manner. We just can’t continue doing it.” 


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