No timeline set for Farquhar closure

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; There is no current timetable in place for the auctions of the 5,763 acres of property, which includes the entire 3,869 acres owned by the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch outside of Greensboro, that Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen and Gov. Bob Riley announced will be put up for sell this week.

Riley and Allen announced the sale of the five properties owned by the Department of Corrections, which will go towards the more than $90 million worth of capital improvement projects needed by the department, at a Wednesday press conference at the state capital. Department of Corrections Public Information Manager Brian Corbett said there is no way at this time to know how long the process of selling the property and moving inmates from the cattle farm will take.

Allen and Riley said all property that will be sold will be appraised, advertised and sold through a public bid process to the highest bidder. The governor&8217;s press office said the process will mirror that which was used to sell 540 acres of the cattle ranch in Greensboro earlier this year, which brought in $1.6 million and was higher than the appraised value of the property, $1.4 million.

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Corbett said the Alabama Department of Conservation&8217;s State Lands division, which also handled the previous auction, will control the sell of the properties.

Corbett said there aren&8217;t any current plans to move prisoners, and the ranch will run as it has in the past until the sale process moves further along. State Representative Ralph Howard, whose district includes Hale, Marengo, Perry and Bibb counties, said he will continue to attempt to reverse the decision.

The governor&8217;s said the Farquhar Cattle Ranch has lost approximately $377,000 during the past two fiscal years and has lost almost $60,000 in the first six months of the current fiscal year. A report from the Department of Corrections shows that the annual gross revenue for the five operating state farms, from 2004-2007, brought in $2.32 millions and the annual expenses for the farms were $2.68 million, leaving a $370,000 average annual cost for the farms after revenues offset expense.

Allen said that the department could eventually, several years down the road, get a profit of $100,000 to $150,000 out of the ranch by investing $300,000 to $400,000 in the property. When asked if bringing the current facilities up to grade at the Farquhar Ranch and bringing in more inmates to increase production could make the ranch a viable revenue source for the department, Allen said the time it would take to do so would exacerbate existing problems the property sales are meant to remedy.

Along with the cattle ranch, the properties listed by the governor&8217;s press office as being put up for sale are: 1,851 acres of the 2,215 acres at Red Eagle Honor Farm in Montgomery, an empty and unused 16,000-square foot building on South Union Street in Montgomery, 32 acres in Wetumpka on Highway 231 North and 10 acres at the old Kilby prison in Montgomery. Preliminary estimates by the Department of Corrections list the total income generated by the land sales to run between $16.33 and $23.87 million, with the value of the Farquhar ranch estimated between $9.29 and $12.38 million for the remaining 3,869 acres for sale.

Both Riley and Allen said the land sales, along with bringing inmates back from private facilities in Louisiana and putting more inmates in work programs, will allow the department to generate money to cover code upgrades, maintenance and capital improvements at state department of correction facilities that will cost is excess of $90 million. The improvements will be done over a period of several years, said Allen and the funds generated through land sales will cover the cost of the first year.