Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County News

Prison officials address questions, concerns (from the Lake City Reporter)

Bil Bryan, the president of Detain Inc. and a prison consultant, answers questions made by concerned citizens during the Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thursday. More than 70 people attended the meeting where a presentation clarifying citizens' concerns were made. Also pictured are Michael Marling (from left), Municipal Capital Market executive vice presi­dent, and Community Education Centers senior vice president Mike Peletier.
(Jason Mathew Walker-Photo)

More than 70 people attended a Chamber of Commerce informational meeting Thursday afternoon [Dec. 17] to get details about a potential privately owned and operated prison which may come to the area. 

The meeting, which lasted more than 90 minutes, featured prison consultant Bill Bryan, Municipal Capital Markets executive vice president Michael Harling and Community Education Centers senior vice president of administration and operational support Mike Pelletier, as the panel which fielded questions from citizens.

After initial introductions, residents asked questions about the proposed facility’s funding, local infrastructure, inmates, how local or federal tax dollars would be used in the facility as well as concerns about the inmates’ families being served or supported through local services.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is considering contracting with one or more contractors to build a privately owned and operated correctional facility in Columbia County. The facility could house up to 1,250 adult, male low-security inmates until then can be deported.

Harling, who is hoping to finance the project, explained how no county tax dollars would be used in the construction of the facility and also told the audience that he is uncertain who the specific owners of the facility would be. According to him, the contract could be purchased by real estate investment trust.

Community Education Centers plans to operate the facility and Pelletier gave a timeline of how Columbia County was chosen as a potential site and how the other sites were eliminated. According to Pelletier, when the Federal Bureau of Prisons released a Request For Proposal listing their needs for additional prison space, 22 projects were considered as possible locations.

Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Williams said the county commission reserves the right to support or not support the proposal depending on the information received from additional research.

Plum Creek representative for the southern region Todd Powell said the facility’s location could potentially affect the Catalyst site and Rural Area of Critical Concern site.

“The only way the property can be accessed is actually right through the middle of the Plum Creek land use amendment that was approved by the county commission in November — that’s the only access to the site,” he said. “When you look at our initial plan of a mixed use type community, there is going to be conflict when you think of work-force housing residential units with having with a prison border right up to that.”

Lake City-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce board of directors president Chris Bullard said the meeting went well and people were pleased to have some of their questions about the facility answered.

“The purpose of this meeting was informational,” he said. “The Chamber of Commerce really hasn’t had a forum for its members to express their opinions and have questions answered. I doubt we’ll come out with an opinion from this meeting.”


For the past 18 months the Columbia County Commission has had the opportunity to hold public hearings for fact finding into the proposed Federal Prison for Columbia County. Once again, the "good ole boys" have fallen down on the job, this time leaving it up to the Chamber of Commerce to get answers to questions that concern the public.
Stew Lilker - Pub/ed


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)