Bad news landed in the county’s lap in July with the announcement the Bay City Work Camp in Apalachicola would close.
Christopher Atkins, warden of Carrabelle’s Franklin Correctional Institution (FCI), which oversees Bay City, said the Florida Department of Corrections is running a multi- million dollar deficit, and that other camps would be closing as well to help stanch the red ink.
The Bay City inmates, of which there were 282 as of June 2011, are “moving to brand new camps with lower operating costs,” he said. ““Nobody will be losing their job. We are hiring more staff for an additional dorm at FCI and there will be promotion opportunities.”
The DOC also closed facilities in Brevard and Glades counties, and opened work camps in Union, Liberty and FCI. The closure of Bay City, and the opening of the new FCI work camp, would gain between 10 and 14 additional jobs. Bay City employed about 67 correctional officers, as of March 2011.
County Commission Chair Cheryl Sanders noted the county had written several letters asking Bay City not be closed.
The biggest concern over the closure was voiced at the Apalachicola city commission meeting, when City Administrator Betty Taylor Webb said the city received $134,000 in water and sewer revenue from Bay City during the 2012-13 fiscal year. “It’s going to be a really tough budget year,” she said.
A reverter clause in place when the county first gave the land to the state in 1989 would mean the land and buildings would be deeded back to the county once the closure was complete.
Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said he met with Dr. Frederick Humphries, president emeritus of Florida A & M University, who thought a good idea would be to use the site as a marine science academy that could draw scholars and students from around the country to do research.
Both State Senator Bill Montford and State Rep. Halsey Beshears planned to discuss their opposition to closure with DOC officials.
Sam Culpepper, director of the Florida Department of Corrections Region 1, told Apalachicola city commissioners Aug. 6 that the cross-county relocation of about 282 inmates from Apalachicola’s Bay City Work Camp to the new work camp at FCI would be the first day of schools, but DOC waited until mid-morning to begin the process.
Culpepper said relocation to FCI Work Camp “is a logical thing for us to do” and will save millions of dollars.
“I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve had to evacuate that work camp,” he said. “Each year the wind load capability goes lower and there’s a lot of concern about the physical plant. It’s in a low-lying area.