The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session on Thursday, March 23, 1989, at 7:00 p.m., in the Groveland High School's Auditorium, Groveland, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: C. W. "Chick" Gregg, Chairman; Don Bailey; Richard Swartz; Thomas J. Windram; and Michael J. Bakich. Others present were: James C. Watkins, Clerk and Acting County Administrator; Christopher C. Ford, County Attorney; Ava Kronz, County Administrator's Assistant; Pat Sledge, Federal Bureau of Prisons; Bill Stanton, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce; Pete McDaniel, Chairman, Jackson County Commission: and Linda Springston, Deputy Clerk.
James C. Watkins, Clerk, gave the Invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Commr. Bakich.
Commr. Gregg called the meeting to order, stating that this is the second local meeting of its kind to be held in the districts. He introduced to the audience the Commissioners and individuals seated at the table before them.
Ms. Pat Sledge, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Site Acquisition Specialist, appeared before the audience to provide information and answer questions on Federal Prisons. She stated that the Federal Bureau of Prisons was established by an Act of Congress in 1930, in order to establish an integrated system of prisons. In the past 15 years, they have established 54 Federal Prisons, which have been very successful. The Federal Bureau of Prisons is part of the Executive Branch of Government, in which the Judicial Branch supports and sentences individuals to a term of incarceration, in a Federal Prison. The Federal Bureau of Investigation uncovers information about the individual; the U.S. Attorney tries the individual through the Federal Courts; and Federal Judges sentence the individual. The U.S. Marshall Service is responsible for transporting the prisoner to the Federal Prison, with the intent to improve their lives, in order to return to society.
Ms. Sledge stated that the Bureau requests communities to donate land which is close to major metropolitan areas. The Lake County proposal is for a medium security facility, with a minimum security camp adjacent to the facility.
Ms. Sledge discussed other Federal Prison systems which are under construction around the United States.
Ms. Sledge noted that the minimum security inmates, who have committed non-violent crimes, serve for approximately two to six years. Those types of inmates are usually good community people, such as, doctors, lawyers, and deans of churches. The medium security institutes, which consist of levels 2, 3, and 4, do not house murderers, but does house those who have violated narcotics laws, such as, for the manufacturing, arranging or transporting of drug deals. Also, Federal crimes are usually crimes that involve United States citizens who have committed crimes, such as, fraud, larceny, moving firearms across state lines, crimes at sea, smuggling, alien imigrates, counterfeiting, explosives, types of extortion, and kidnapping. She reviewed the percentages of males, females, and other races at each of the levels, and briefly reviewed security levels 5 and 6.
Ms. Sledge stated that the Bureau of Prisons emphasizes work programs, and the inmates are required to work, at least 7 l/2 hours per day, except those inmates which are attending classes. Also, the inmates are required to participate in a financial program, when they are sentenced and fined by the courts, whereas, the Bureau can ensure that those inmates pay their fines.
Ms. Sledge reviewed the Furlough Program, in which certain inmates, such as the ones in camps, are eligible to visit their homes occassionally, but this program does not apply to medium or maximum security prisoners. Inmates who have not seen their families for four or five years, are not able to go home until the Bureau has checked with their families, and the family must agree that they want the inmate to return.
Ms. Sledge noted that the Lake County Board of County Commissioners had invited her to participate in discussions in order to inform the public on the Federal Bureau of Prisons system, but that the Bureau is not set on any particular parcel of land. The Bureau is only interested in utilizing 50 to 60 acres, with the institute placed in the center, and a buffer surrounding it.
Ms. Sledge stated that 50 to 60 percent of the construction, and other workers, will be hired locally.
Ms. Sledge reviewed the Federal Bureau of Prison employee benefits and retirement systems. She stated that the Bureau has a mandatory retirement policy at age 55, and an age limitation of 35 for those hired, with the exception of medical doctors, nurses, and chaplains.
Ms. Sledge, the Board, and the audience then viewed a video movie entitled "FCI Otisville: A Case Study".
Mr. Pete McDaniel, Chairman, Board of County Commissioners, Jackson County, appeared before the members of the Board and the audience, and stated that there are four Federal Prisons in Jackson County. He noted that the majority of the citizens and residents are pleased with the prisons within the County.
Mr. Bill Stanton, President, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, appeared before the members of the Board and the audience, and discussed how the population fluctuated when various Air Force facilities were in Marianna, until the Sunnyland Training Center for the Mentally Retarded and a Correctional Instution were located there. He stated that these facilities produced jobs and boosted the economy.
Mr. Stanton noted that, in Marianna, where a Federal Prison is located, Jackson County also had a series of meetings, such as the one Lake County is holding tonight, to educate the public and abolish some of the misunderstandings about this type of prison. He also noted that the subdivisions adjacent to the Federal Prison have doubled their property values.
Mr. Stanton urged the audience to consider the pros and cons of a Federal Prison in Lake County before the citizens make up their minds against it.
One member of the audience questioned the Board on the need for a Federal Prison in Lake County, and which Commissioners would be in favor of having the prison in their district.
Commr. Gregg stated that the Economic Development Council approached each of the Commissioners with the proposal of a Federal Prison, and they were interested in investigating the possibility. Each Commissioner had traveled to Marianna to see the prison first hand, and they also reviewed the payroll and budget of the community.
Commr. Gregg stated that the prison would be beneficial for Lake County and have a positive impact on the area. He noted that the Board would hold three public hearings on the subject, for public input. He also noted that he would not object to having the prison in his district, which is District One.
Commr. Bakich, Commissioner of District Five, stated that he would entertain the thought of having the prison in his district. He then suggested to the members of the audience that they visit the Federal Prison in Marianna, or one of the others around state, because the surrounding areas of the prison do not have the negative impact in which the public is suggesting.
Commr. Bailey, Commissioner of District Two, stated that he was reluctant to place this prison in his district, because this type of use was not what he had planned for on in this particular area of Highway 19/27/Turnpike.
Commr. Windram, Commissioner of District Four, stated that he would consider this prison in his district, and that he would review any positive opportunity that is proposed for Lake County.
Commr. Swartz, Commissioner of District Three, stated that these public hearings are for everyone involved to determine whether Lake County wants that type of facility. He noted that he is concerned, as a representative of South Lake County, but that the prison needs to be reviewed from the standpoint of how it will fit into Lake County. He stated that he would not vote to put the prison in his district any more than he would vote to put it in any other district, and that everyone should look at it in those terms.
Mr. Ted Hojack, Manager of Woodland Heritage Mobile Home Park, appeared before the Board and stated that his park is very close to the proposed area for the prison. He felt that the Commissioners have ignored the residents and owners of the area. He referred to a study which was performed in that area, in which the County was proposing a Expo/Convention Center, etc., that it would bring tourists to the area, and increase the value of homes and property. He did not feel that a prison is an appropriate use for the property, or that it would increase property values. He invited all of the Commissioners to their mobile home park, to see how close it is to the proposed prison site.
Mr. Jay Lovett, a resident of Woodland Heritage Mobile Home Park, discussed his concerns to the prison being so close to their homes. He also felt that the Government should not ask communities for donated property, because the residents are paying taxes on that property.
Mrs. Barbara Turcyn, a Lake County resident, raised the question of how many residents of Marianna were affected by the prison system. She was also concerned whether the Lake County Board of County Commissioners will listen to the citizens, regarding their feelings on whether or not the prison will be located in Lake County.
Mr. Bill Stanton, President, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, answered her question by stating that almost every resident of Marianna was affected, and that those persons which were employed by the prison bought homes and paid property taxes in Marianna, therefore, the economy was upgraded.
Commr. Gregg informed Ms. Turcyn that the Board would consider the residents views and input, and they would take those views into consideration before the final decision is made.
A gentleman in the audience was concerned that the property in question presently has no infrastructure, and who was going to put the infrastructure on the property.
Commr. Gregg noted that the infrastructure is part of the process, in the construction of the prison, which will create and generate growth in that area.
Ms. Pat Sledge, Federal Bureau of Prisons, stated that the construction of the infrastructure depends on what is necessary, at whatever site is chosen. The Bureau would assist the community in securing bonds and grants from the Federal and State governments, and the Bureau would pay for the impact fees, because the prison would be the prime establishment on the property. When other industry arrived on the site, they would start paying their share, depending on the uses.
Mr. Bob Becker, of Howey-in-the-Hills, stated that in his town, a group of concerned citizens, had submitted a petition of approximately 400 signatures, requesting the Commissioners to vote "NO" for any type of Federal Prison facility in Lake County.
Commr. Swartz informed the audience that the Board is now in the process of arranging a public hearing in the Howey-in-the-Hills area, because some of those elected officials have expressed some concerns and have requested additional information on the Federal Prison.
Mr. Charles Kahorsky, a Lake County resident, stated that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has a commendable program and presentation, but that the idea of the prison in Lake County is not appropriate. He felt that the prison is a good economic base for any area. The prison is not appropriate for the proposed site, therefore, if the Board were to choose another site, it may be acceptable. He also wondered whether the people of Lake County will be able to vote on this issue with a referendum.
Mr. Herman Barwick, a resident of Montverde, questioned the effect that the prison would have on taxes and schools in Lake County. He also noted concerns with regard to the proximity of the prison to homes and businesses.
Mr. Bill Stanton, President, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, informed Mr. Barwick that the employees of the prison who live in the area would help support the tax structure, and that because of the age limit of 35 on hiring, the majority of the employees are younger.
Commr. Bakich noted that within one half a mile of the Federal Prison in Miami, there are seven residential developments, one Zoo, one major shopping center, and one park. Within one half a block of the Federal Prison in Tallahassee, there is an Elementary School, and within one block there is a High School.
Ms. Jean Merrill, a resident of Groveland, stated her concerns with donating the land for the prison and of having a prison within Lake County. She felt that the Commissioners should choose a site within each of the Commissioner's Districts, then hold these public hearings to decide on an appropriate site.
Ms. Pat Sledge, Federal Bureau of Prisons, stated that the Bureau employs 14,000 people around the United States, and they are honest, good, hardworking people. The Bureau is looking for decent communities to place the prison, because the staff is deserving of the ability to live in these types of communities. She informed the public that the Federal lands on the Military Bases are not available to the Bureau of Prisons. Also, the wetlands in Florida, where the Federal Government owns properties and have wildlife preserves, cannot hold a prison. Therefore, the Bureau must find appropriate urban areas, where the Bureau can solicit the proper type of employee which would staff the Prison.
Mr. Troy Jamison, City Councilman in Groveland, appeared before the Board to state his concerns, to the placement of the prison in the Highway 27/19/Turnpike area. He stated that, if an inmate were to escape, that inmate would have access to a major highway. He was also concerned with the possibility of housing maximum security prisoners in the prison, and whether local contractors could be involved in the construction process. He also encouraged the Board to take this issue to a referendum vote.
Mr. Bill Stanton, President, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, noted that 70 percent of the construction process of the prison in Jackson County was from local contractors.
Mr. Dick Sewell, a resident of Groveland, stated to the Board that he does not want a prison in Lake County, much less in the Groveland area..Mr. Bill Sullivan, a resident of Lake County, voiced his concerns to the Board, and he felt that the Bureau could utilize Federally owned land to build the prison.
Commr. Gregg stated that the Commissioners questioned the Warden in Marianna if the Bureau could use national park land, and they were told that it cannot be done.
Mr. Greg Honan, a resident of Lake County, stated that he felt that the Prison would be a benefit to the County, but not in the area Eor which it is being discussed. He mentioned an area in District Three which he felt would be more appropriate, away from a major highway.
Mrs. May Griffin, Mayor of Minneola, stated her concerns that the Prison would have a detrimental impact on Lake County. She also was concerned with how the small towns would be able to compete with the salaries offerred by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Mr. Ed Ivey, a resident of Clermont, noted his concerns to the prison.
Ms. Jane Gerasky, of Groveland, stated her concerns to the Board, and that she does not want a prison in Lake County.
At this tine, several individuals spoke regarding their concerns, and did not give their names.
Mr. Bert Blake, of South Lake County, questioned the Board as to whether the possibility of a High Security Prison will be placed in Lake County.
Connr. Gregg reassured Mr. Blake that there is no possibility of a High Security Prison in Lake County, but that it was offerred as a second option by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and that the Commissioners informed the Bureau that it would not be acceptable. He further stated that the Highway 19/27/Turnpike site was considered because the Bureau would construct the major water and sewer improvements which would facilitate locating an industrial park in the area, or possibly a Fairground.
A resident, who lives on Highway 19, stated her concerns with the inmates who are release on Furloughs.
Ms. Jean Hardin, a Lake County resident, noted her concerns regarding what money will be used to purchase the land for the Federal Prison.
Commr. Gregg informed her that part of the Highway 19/27/Turnpike property was purchased with the Tourist Tax, part with the County's General Fund, and part was donated by the Libby Corporation. He assured her that the prison would not be placed on the property owned and purchased by the Tourist Development Council.
Mr. Ken Small, who owns land near the property in question, stated his objections to the prison on the proposed site.
Ms. Joan Sullivan, a resident of Lake County, was concerned with what would be built on the land owned by the Tourist Development Council.
Commr. Gregg informed her that there is a possibility that a Fairground would be built there.
Several individuals stated their concerns to the Board, but did not indicate their names. One gentleman wondered whether some of the other counties in Florida would like to have this opportunity of a Federal Prison in their county.
Ms. Pat Sledge, Federal Bureau of Prisons, informed the gentleman that other communities are interested in the Federal Prison in their areas.
Commr. Bakich reminded the audience that the Economic Development Council approached the Board of County Commissioners to explore the possibility of the Federal Prison in Lake County, and that the Board indicated an interest to the Council.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting adjourned at 10:l0 p.m.
C. W. "CHICK" GREGG, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK