Jail plan draws teen criticism in Johnston County

(AJ Janavel | CBS North Carolina)

SELMA, N.C. (WNCN) — Johnston County is running out of space at the sheriff’s office and in their detention center, but the proposed solution is causing controversy.

Officials have suggested building a new jail right on the Selma/Smithfield town line.

At a Thursday meeting, teenagers told the Selma Town Council that the proposal raises safety concerns.

“Of all places in Johnston County, they want to do it across the street from Triple S,” said Mariah Godwyn, a senior at Smithfield-Selma Senior High School.

Godwyn is graduating in the spring, before the proposed building would be in service, but she said she’s still concerned for students.

“You’re going to make it worse by putting a jail across the street from us,” she told officials.

The building would be about half a mile from the school, and also near Smithfield Middle School, Neuse Charter School, and the Smithfield Community Park.

Smithfield-Selma senior Linda Rivera said she understands the need for growth, but thinks this isn’t a good — or safe — solution.

“It does need to get larger but that doesn’t mean you have to put in near a school,” she said.

Mark Petersen, the Selma Town Council member who requested public input on the jail plain, said the proposed area could be put to better use in terms of economic development.

“My entire purpose of this, (is to) find out what our citizens thought about it,” he said. “I talked to a bunch of them offline and to a T they are all opposed to it.”

Thursday, the Johnston County officials who proposed the site said that nothing is set in stone. The county hasn’t yet filed a zoning application for the property.

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