Cattle Ranch: Lets see the bottom line before making decision

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 23, 2007

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard F. Allen seems poised to recommend that the state sell off the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch south of Greensboro to help plug budget holes in his department.

On the surface, this seems like a foolish decision that will not fix the problems facing our Corrections Department.

Programs such as the cattle ranch brought in $2.4 million in revenue in the last fiscal year. According to ADOC reports, those revenues exceeded the expenses.

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In other words, the Alabama Correctional Industries&8217; work programs are making money for ADOC.

So the question now is, &8220;Does the Farquhar program make money or lose money?&8221;

We are seeking the answer to that question, but it is one that Allen should answer before making his recommendation. If the ranch is costing the state money, then we could understand considering the sell of the property, so long as the economic impact to the area is also considered.

If Farquhar is making money, then Allen is getting ahead of himself. Already, under his leadership, ADOC sold 540 acres of the ranch for a profit of $1.6 million. That money went toward the ADOC budget.

While it is easy to look at quick revenue streams to plug expense holes, it is unwise to depend on one-time money to fix ongoing problems.

Allen, Gov. Bob Riley and the Legislature need to look at real solutions to the problems facing ADOC. Alabama is not the only state wrestling with rising costs related to corrections. It is a national problem.

Selling off assets for a quick buck is bad business and shows no real vision. But ridding the state of a financial drain would be a smart move. Now all we have to do is find out which Farquhar is.

In the end, we do not want to see the ranch close. It provides jobs and stimulates the local economy. It also draws visitors from across the South.

This decision needs much discussion, not a quick fix.