Last ditch effort to keep Petersburg jail open led to heated meeting

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PETERSBURG, Va. -- Emotions ran high inside Petersburg’s City Council chambers Tuesday night. There were several big items up for discussion, but nothing sparked more outrage than the issue of closing the city's jail next month. Several people spoke publicly about the decision that the mayor announced yesterday as "final." Residents used the meeting as a last-ditch effort to keep the jail open.

"Don't just say ‘no jail in the city of Petersburg because you're going to end up losing revenue and you going to pay more money to outhouse prisoners just don't make no sense,” Petersburg resident Robert Snipes said.

The jail is scheduled to close effective March 1, 2015, and the existing inmates are set to be moved to Riverside Regional Jail by March 15.

There were also discussions about a special election set to take place by February 7, to fill a vacancy following the sudden death of Petersburg Vice-Mayor Carl "Mike" Ross last month.

Residents also discussed with Council the unexpected hike to water bills. In some cases the bills jumped hundreds of dollars. The increase follows what the city spokeswoman said occurred after the water department installed new meters and with it came two cycles of estimated bills.

A representative with the water department apologized Tuesday evening for the increase in water bills, and reminded those in attendance payment plans were allowed.

Councilwoman Treska Wilson-Smith asked, "no one's water will be turned off because of these high bills?" The utility rep responded "correct."

The utility rep responded "correct."

Another councilman chimed in "those residents who stopped by my house with an $800/$900 bill are not satisfied with a payment plan."

Some in attendance applauded. In the end, the council announced utility hours were being extended to 6 p.m. in order to help more customers.

Also up for discussion, were talks about a proposed plan for a low-income apartment complex.

Those for and against the plan voiced their opinions. In the end the council voted to "table" the issue until the next scheduled meeting.