Jail/prison main topic of discussion at BCEDC meeting

Most of the discussion at Monday’s Bradley County Economic Development Corp. board meeting concerned the disposition of the Southeast Arkansas Regional Jail.

By Tim Kessler

LaSalle Corrections recently informed Bradley County Quorum Court that it would be economically unfeasible for the company to build and maintain the jail. However, company officials left open the possibility that the county itself could arrange to build a $30 million facility using revenue bonds.

Still left open is what happens to 20 acres that BCEDC deeded to LaSalle along with a spec building which LaSalle had torn down. Under terms of a contract with BCEDC, if the jail didn’t open with a minimum of 78 employees per year for 15 years, the company would be liable to pay BCEDC about $40,000 per year.

BCEDC Chairman Dr. Bob Smalling told the board that the Quorum Court has supplied information on the project to LaSalle. A county Jail Committee comprised of JPs Gwen Bullard, Bobby Hargrave and Jimmy Sledge is still considering the project. County Attorney Ricky Roper was asked to send LaSalle a letter clarifying the county’s contract with the company.

“The jail is either coming to Drew County or Bradley County,” Smalling said. Part of the negotiations will involve putting the 20 acres in usable condition.

“All the contact we have indicates they fully expect to abide by the contract,” he added. Smalling said the advantages of having a county-built facility would be 100-120 jobs with the $30 million investment which would help offset losses the city and county expect due to lower federal and state turnback funds as there have been population losses at both levels due to insufficient U.S. Census figures.

“We are here to get jobs for Bradley County,” Smalling said.

Board member John Lipton pointed out that such a project could possibly qualify for the state bond guarantee program.

In other action:

  • Accountant Bob Milton reported as far as BCEDC is concerned, “The amount of money we have coming in just about covers the bills.” For September, there was $500 in lease income and $777 in expenses.
  • Banks Mayor Keeton Hudson said a Halloween event with cash prizes will be held from 6-8 p.m. Saturday. Buck Fever Festival will be on Nov. 13, with BCEDC voting to give $100 to the festival.
  • Lipton reported the Southeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Facilities Authority board met and discussed a recent industrial prospect. “The Intermodal is in real good shape financially,” he said.
  • The BCEDC annual meeting was set for Jan. 31.
  • Board members present included Smalling, Lipton, Keith Chambers, Sue Wagnon, Hugh Allen Quimby, John Gavin and Devin McDiarmid. Proxies were sent in by Carlton Davis and James Wells.
  • The next BCEDC board meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at the BCEDC building.

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