RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It was an historic night in Richmond. It's official; the city is getting a new jail. After years of planning and months of debate, City Council finally passed the $116M proposal chosen by the mayor's administration.
It was a 7 to 2 decision to approve the mayor's choice. Jones released a statement immediately following the vote saying he is confident this is the right outcome and decision for our city, officers and inmates.
Sheriff CT Woody's eyes filled with tears.
"It just hit me," he said. "We wanted it. We needed it. I'm not ashamed to cry. I'm happy."
But it didn't come easy. There were questions about minority participation and building height in the proposal by Thompkins Ballard. There were also allegations Mayor Dwight Jones' administration didn't follow the law in making its choice.
"We've made exceptions," said Councilman Marty Jewell. "We have turned a phrase on interpretations. And after a while one exception stacked on another begins to raise all sorts of questions."
Most council members, however, are now satisfied the process wasn't flawed.
"This is the largest appropriation for a single project since I've been on council and I take it seriously and I believe Thompkins Ballard is the superior choice," said Councilman Chris Hilbert.
With groundbreaking expected at the end of this year the conditions, which have so often been described as inhumane will soon be a thing of the past.
"It gives them hope," Woody explained. "It lets them know that their hard work counts and it just means so much to all of us as well as the community."
Construction is set to begin in December or January with completion expected in 2014. Jones also noted in his statement, he will hold the selected firm accountable throughout the entire construction process.