Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Fed. Bureau of Prisons wants to house 2500 illegal aliens in Columbia County • Meeting tonight  

This public notice was published right after the obits on Sat., June 20th. It is almost impossible to pick it out when looking at the whole page.

In the works for over a year, the prison was originally going to house 1,254 convicted illegal aliens.

Buried after the obituaries in the Saturday, June 20th, Lake City Reporter was a barely visible “Public Notice” from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

While this project appears to have been in the works for over a year, County Manager Dale Williams and the County Commission have been silent regarding the specifics of the project since sometime before July of 2008.

On July 1, 2008 the County Commission held a “special meeting” at 9:00 a.m. in Board’s conference room. The County publicly announced this special meeting by putting a notice in the mailbox of the Lake City Reporter. This mail box is located in the office of the County Commission. No members from the public attended the meeting. This is the well worn, tried and true method County Manager Dale Williams has used over the years to evade the spirit of the Sunshine Laws and to keep the public in the dark regarding short noticed meetings.

During the July 1, 2008 meeting, [click here to go to the minutes] the County Commission, in its usual helter-skelter motion making routine, rejected and then approved a letter of support for the prison project. At that time the prison was to house “1,254 illegal aliens who have been arrested and convicted of committing a crime in this country.” The public was never given a copy of this letter; it is unknown whether or not it was written; it was never mentioned at a public meeting again.

Today, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“Bureau”) is looking to house up to 2500 prisoners in a private prison in Columbia County.

Florida’s most secretive County Government remained true to form doing what it does best -- keeping the public in the dark. For a year, County Manager Dale Williams and the County Commission have been involved in discussions with a specialty investment-banking firm that specializes in providing long-term financing to its clients through the issuance of municipal bonds.

According to the July 1, 2008 meeting minutes, Commissioner Stephen Bailey spoke about what he thought were problems with the pay rates being proposed. It is impossible to read Commissioner Bailey’s real remarks, as after the considerable complaining and lobbying of County Manager Dale Williams, all quotes from Commissioners and all meeting attendees have been agreed to be stricken from the record before they ever appear.

Earlier today, the Observer asked Columbia County’s long time Assistant County Manager, Lisa Roberts, about the county’s involvement in the planning of tonight’s meeting.

Ms. Robert’s told the Observer, “The County had nothing to do with this meeting and nothing to do with setting it up.”

The Observer asked Ms. Roberts if she knew where the property was. Ms. Robert’s replied, “I don’t know.”

The Observer asked Ms. Roberts if she knew if anyone in the county was involved in the project. Ms. Roberts answered, “To my knowledge, no one in the county was involved.”

Last week, a confidential source sent along a correspondence from Mike Harling of the Municipal Capital Markets Group, Inc. addressed to various public officials in the County. In this correspondence, Mr. Harling wrote, “I want to thank you again for your time and support for the Federal Bureau of Prisons project that we are pursuing.”

Tonight at 6 p.m. in the Downtown Public Library, the Bureau is looking for public comments.



Prison Links:
  • Bailey letter to Ander Crenshaw
  • Federal Register: Notice of Hearing
  • Harling's list of benefits
  • July 1, 2008 Board Meeting Minutes
  • July 1, 2008 letter of support
  • June 30, 2009 - Fed. Bureau of Prisons wants to house 2500 illegal aliens in Columbia County
  • July 2, 2009 - Fed Bureau of Prisons listens to the public - 2500 bed illegal alien prison still uncertain
 • Nov 13, 2009 Com Bailey in the shadows - works to kibosh 100 million dollar fed project
 • Dec 15, 2009 - Debbie Boyd Calls Prison Powwow
 • Dec 18, 2009 - Prison officials address questions, concerns (from the LCR)