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Development commission files suit against the state over prison work camp

The Holmes County Development Commission filed a lawsuit Dec. 14 against the State of Florida to recover property that was formerly used as a prison work camp.

The commission deeded the property situated adjacent to the Holmes Correctional Institution to the state in 1991 to provide space for a functioning inmate work camp; however, the commission is seeking to repossess the property under a reverter clause in the deed specifying that the work camp was to employ a minimum of 35 persons at all times. The work camp ceased operations entirely in April last year meaning it has failed to meet the required condition since then.

“We tried every way we can to work with them, but now we’ve got a number of businesses that want to buy that location and make it into a man camp,” Executive Director Joe Rone said in the Dec. 19 meeting.
The man camp would provide housing for 200 or more workers in Bay County and the surrounding area.

“It will be good for our community with what they’ll put in there,” Rone said. “They (the workers) will be getting services from the hospital and eating at the restaurants.”

In addition to boosting the local economy, the move would also put the property on the tax roll.

In other business, the commission is forming a new nominating committee to fill a vacancy left by the recent passing of former member Russ Cole. Stephanie Cloud and Judy Powell are on the committee and will soon begin reviewing applications to fill the vacancy once the committee is full.

Also in the meeting, Lesley Hatfield presented a marketing report to members on a project underway to hopefully attract an Alabama-based manufacturer of insulated styrofoam panels used in modular homes. The company is in search of a 10-acre property near Interstate 10 to construct a warehouse that would provide 150 jobs to the area with the average starting pay at $25 per hour with benefits.

The commission is waiting for a reply on the bid request submitted to the company showcasing why Holmes County would be a good fit for the company’s needs.

“We want those jobs here,” Rone said.

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