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State board picks Norton as site of last regional jail

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

CHARLESTON -- Randolph County it is.

"The board voted six to one in favor of siting the Tygart Valley Regional Jail at the Norton property," said Steve Canterbury, director of the state Regional Jail Authority.

"Now, we will proceed with getting the various permits needed and buying the property," he added late Monday afternoon, minutes after the seven-member board recessed.

The property is located in the small Randolph County community of Norton, near the intersection of U.S. routes 33 and 250. In an agreement with landowner David Antolini of Norton, the authority will pay the appraised value of $9,000 per acre for the 30-acre site, or a total of $270,000.

"He lives on the site," Canterbury said of Antolini. "He will have to move, and we will probably use the house during the construction."

As soon as the sale is closed, site preparation and architectural work will begin. That will probably occur in late winter, the director added.

Architectural firm ZMM/CRA of Charleston is handling the 300-bed project, which is identical in design to 10 other regional jails that have been located across the state since 1992. The jails vary from 200 to 400 beds depending on the population served.

Earlier in the siting process, several other sites were in contention for the $18-20 million project. Among them was a 90-acre tract at the Belington Industrial Park, which was ranked second to Norton out of more than 20 initial proposals.

Canterbury, who recommended the Norton site for approval, has said its chief advantage is its central location to the counties served: Barbour, Taylor, Preston, Tucker, Randolph and Pocahontas.

The Norton site is also superior in terms of access to Corridor H and the city of Elkins, which produces a large percentage of the region's inmates and also is the site of a federal court, Canterbury said. The regional jail will additionally hold federal prisoners during court proceedings.

The move to regional jails, which house inmates with sentences of one year or less, began in 1992.

To comply with new federal standards, the state began building the regional facilities to replace older county jails, Canterbury said.

Construction costs for the jails are covered through court fees, while operating costs are tax funded.

Seven of the regional jails are up and running in Martinsburg, Flatwoods, Charleston, Beaver, Moundsville, Holden and August. Two are under construction in unincorporated areas in Doddridge and Cabell counties.

The Tygart Valley Regional Jail is the last of 10 such facilities.

Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at nedinger@exponent-telegram.com.

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