Gates County gains prison ownership

Published 10:24 am Thursday, August 22, 2013

GATESVILLE – One dollar….that’s what Gates County will pay for a valuable piece of property, not to mention a historic one.

As part of recent legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly, approval was given (and Governor Pat McCrory signed the document) to sell the old Gates Correctional Center to the county for $1.

For what purpose that building and grounds will serve is yet to be determined.

“We’re still in the preliminary stages of looking at several different options of what to do with the building,” said Gates County Manager Jon Mendenhall. “It could be used as our EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and/or we could use it to house a back-up emergency communications center. With its kitchen and mess hall, there’s been some discussion about using it as a community type center that can be rented for events where meals are served.

“It can also serve as housing for NCDOT personnel and equipment when they are in need of a staging area in the aftermath of a storm. That would prove as an asset to not only the county, but the local region as well,” Mendenhall added.

Thanks to the approval of North Carolina legislators, the prison property was transferred from the state to the county by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Mendenhall said DPS Secretary Kieran Shanahan recently visited with GatesCounty officials at the old prison prior to the transfer of property ownership.

Currently, the property is being surveyed and a deed of ownership is forthcoming.

Previously, the state transferred ownership of the prison’s wastewater treatment facility to the county. That 20-acre site also serves Gates County High School and Central Middle School. The county’s interest in that facility is in an effort to provide sewer service to Merchants Commerce Center, an area of planned commercial development on US 158 in front of Gates County High School and the Gates County Community Center.

Work is complete on phase 1 of the sewer project, one that has expanded the treatment facility from 11,000 gallons per day capacity to 50,000.

Just prior to its closing on Oct. 1, 2009, the prison was home to 96 inmates and 31 staff members.

Built during the late 1930’s, Gates Correctional Center’s inmate population worked a number of jobs, including a road crew with the Department of Transportation. Inmates nearing parole participated in work release, leaving the prison for the part of the day to work for a business in the community.

In 1959, GCC housed white male youth sentenced for their first offense. In 1964, the mission of the prison changed. The male youth were transferred to Polk Youth Institution and GCC received black misdemeanants. Several years later all prisons were integrated and GCC remained a minimum security unit.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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