“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people… ”

The beginning of a famous document and how appropriate that it must be used once again during this time of year. It has become necessary for the citizens of Franklin County to once again unite as “one” family. A plan has been developed to relocate jobs from the west side of the county and move them to the east. Specifically, closing Bay City Work Camp in Apalachicola to open Franklin Work Camp in Carrabelle.

However, the impact of such a move has not been fully examined. Why is this move necessary? We are told to offset the deficit and no jobs will be lost, so how can this improve the deficit when in fact just the opposite will happen? More correctional officers will be required to operate the larger, new facility at Franklin CI; an additional 10-15 staff will be required to operate with an added cost of $400,000. This comes at a time when the Department of Corrections is facing a shortfall of $40 million during the first month of the new fiscal year. One would conclude that this deficit will only increase over a year’s time. Why wasn’t this not discussed during the legislative session? When our elected representatives could have questioned senior DOC staff. Instead, this is being fast-tracked and the community will barely have time to respond. Taxpayers should question: is this a wise investment or an efficient manner with which to spend funds that aren’t available. We should question where is DOC coming up with this additional money? Certainly going forward with this plan will not reduce the deficit by one penny. We are told they would save from lower maintenance repairs over the years.

However, little has been spent to upkeep Bay City Work Camp over the years. It appears, just from the surface, a new facility was constructed at a time when the Florida Dept. of Corrections didn’t need the beds. Criminal justice estimating conference states in part: The projected prison population is 1,496 lower than the September forecast at the end of fiscal years 2009 through 2010, and even lower  at the end of 2104 through 2015. Another reason DOC announced plans in 2012 to close approximately 11 facilities, however, some were spared, management has look been aware that fewer beds would be required for in the short or long term. So why was the new camp constructed? A question that taxpayers of Franklin County should be asking of the Governor and state politicians.

Now to the larger question: What to do with a new facility, let it sit? Probably not; should the employees of Bay City Work Camp in Apalachicola suffer for this poor decision? We are all taxpayers; many questioned the wisdom of constructing this facility. There will be a domino effect should this be fully implemented. For example, the City of Apalachicola will lose approximately $150,000 from the loss of revenue generated from the water/sewer system. Historic Apalachicola could be in jeopardy. Political leaders of the city will weigh out how best to proceed. Will it be worth the investment to continue supervising inmate work squads? How does the city offset this loss? Raising rates on existing customers or laying off employees. Neither one is acceptable to this struggling economy and community.

Franklin County has long been designated one of Critical Economic Concern. At a time when the county commissioners should be looking for answers that would benefit the whole of Franklin County, we find more evidence of political maneuvering  that only increases the “which side of the river mentality.” We would hope that they could put aside their views for the betterment of the county, and put all their effort into making sure both work camps are in operation, This way new jobs are added thereby increasing the economy in Carrabelle while not diminishing the economy of Apalachicola and Eastpoint. Let’s put all of Franklin County to work by keeping Bay City open and bringing Franklin Work Camp online.

Theresa Amison