It wasn’t a shouting match or a down right argument, but things got a little heated at city hall Monday. It happened at a lunch between Mayor Dwight Jones and Richmond City Council members. These lunches were added by Mayor Jones as a way to keep in touch with the council. They usually discuss issues making the headlines and this week it was the proposals for a new city jail.
Richmond received 6 unsolicited proposals to build a new jail. Details on at least 3 of the proposals have leaked out to the press, which has caused concerned in the affected city neighborhoods. We learned today that 2 of the 6 proposals were disqualified by the committee vetting the plans. We don’t know which plans were sent back or why and that’s what started the debate today.
Councilwoman Reva Trammell represents the 8th district. She says one of the proposals under consideration would be in her district at an old Phillip Morris building. She wanted to know today, where the developers of the remaining plans are proposing to put their jails. This second clip, Mayor Jones openly disagrees with Trammell.
I spoke with both Trammell and Jones after the meeting. Trammell was still pretty mad about not being told where the jails could be built. She said, “Just like myself representing the 8th district, I need to know what’s going on in my district. He’s the mayor of this city. He should know where those other proposals are. Is there going to another one in the 8th district? The 1st, 2nd, 3rd? Where are the other proposals? He’s the Mayor. He should know. He said he doesn’t know. He does not want to know.”
Mayor Dwight Jones told me that a special committee is vetting the proposals so he does not know the details of any of them. He went on to tell me, “Let’s keep our powder dry. Let’s be calm. Let’s be collected. Let’s wait for the process to fulfill itself and then when we have all the information on the table we will make a decision. At the end of the process, after we’ve gathered all the information, that’s the time for the public to say we don’t like this or we do like it. And at the end of the day it’s not going to be my decision. City Council’s got to make that decision.”
The administration says it could be another 5 or 6 months before the 4 proposals are fully vetted. The committee will make a recommendation to Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall who in turn will make a recommendation to the mayor. City Council will vote on a final proposal if the process gets that far.