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Authority considers project

The recently-established Piedmont Regional Jail Authority (PRJA) hasn’t taken on any debt and hasn’t borrowed any money though its new status as an authority allows it to do.

Wade Bartlett

The authority replaced the previous system that consisted of governance by a jail board in January.

Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince Edward, Lunenburg and Nottoway counties make up the membership of the jail’s authority.

According to Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett, who serves as a member of the authority board, any debt taken on would have to go through member localities’ boards of supervisors.

“There is a project we’re looking at out there that is part of a requirement by the mandate that we’re under, but that has not been finalized,” Bartlett said. “At the moment, we’re still gathering data and information.”

Bartlett said nothing has changed regarding the operation of the jail.

“The main reason this was done to go to an authority was to protect the counties and the citizens of the counties from liability,” Bartlett said. “It gives a layer of insulation to the counties for any liability claims against the jail … That did not exist when it was just a board and not an authority.”

In a previous interview, Bartlett said an example of this would be if the jail were to expend funds on a major capital project, the ensuing debt would not be reflected on the individual county’s budget sheets.

The shift of obligation and responsibility would give the authority the option to charge higher housing rates for federal prisoners, effectively transferring repayment responsibility from the counties to the federal government, Bartlett said.

According to resolutions agreed to by member counties during the establishment of the authority, the purpose for creating the authority included “acquiring, constructing, owning, equipping, maintaining and operating regional jail facilities, including, but not limited to, enlarging, renovating and improving such facilities; acquiring the necessary real personal property therefore, with the right of contract for the use of, or to lease, mortgage or sell any or all of such facilities, including real property.”