Selma Opposes Proposed Jail Site

The Selma Town Council Tuesday joined the Greater Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday in opposing the proposed Buffalo Road site for the new Johnston County Law Enforcement Center.

Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver said the Buffalo Road site would not encourage the residential and commercial growth that has been envisioned for the area.

Last December, the Greater Area Smithfield-Selma Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors announced their opposition to the site.

Johnston County commissioners voted 4-3 on Nov. 7 to pay nearly $1.6 million for a 68-acre tract owned by Frank Lee.

Commissioners Jeff Carver, Ted Godwin and Allen Mims Jr. voted against the purchase.

Godwin was present at the town council meeting. He said the resolution reinforced his initial reservations about the site.

Godwin said he voted against the purchase because of the cost and because he felt it wasn’t the best use for the property.

“I don’t believe we should be spending that many taxpayer dollars for a site where we can achieve a desirable location at likely half that price,” said Godwin. “If we could have gotten it for $10,000 an acre, I might have voted for it.”

In the Selma resolution, the council said the location is near Smithfield-Selma High School, Neuse Charter School, the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center and homes.

While opponents have expressed safety concerns, Godwin said he thought they weren’t well founded.

“How much safer could the schools be than to have law enforcement in their vicinity?” said Godwin.

The resolution also said “the proposed site is currently zoned residential and has for years been strategically identified as an area for future residential and commercial growth.”

The resolution also sited that Buffalo Road will become one of the major entryways into Selma and that Selma residents opposed it at a Jan. 12 public hearing.

Oliver and the council, in the resolution, asked commissioners “to consider other sites particularly those that the County already owns.”

“They own land near the Johnston County landfill,” said Oliver. “They could also use some surrounding downtown Smithfield areas.”

Oliver said there are no sites in the Selma ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction) that would be suitable.

“As to where we go, who knows?” said Godwin. “We’re talking about other locations and kicking it around but there’s no firmly established direction I can see right now.”

The county paid $1,000 for an option on the Buffalo Road property.

“We can either exercise it or abandon the option,” said Godwin. “What we decide next is whether we walk away or move forward.”

Godwin said he was recently in Moore County and saw its new detention center in downtown Carthage.

“The more I think about locating the Law Enforcement Center downtown, the more I think there are possibilities,” said Godwin. “When the time is right, I believe we’ll move in a different direction.”

Selma Mayor Cheryl Oliver, right, reads proclamation as Mayor Pro-tem Jackie Lacy listens.

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