Cattle ranch sale ongoing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 23, 2007

MONTGOMERY &8212; While the process for the sell of the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch is still moving forward, Gov. Bob Riley and Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner Richard Allen are reviewing all options for the site and no final decisions on its future are yet made.

On Tuesday, Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, and the governor&8217;s legal advisor, Ken Wallis, met at the State Capitol to discuss putting several facets of the sell, the cattle auction and catfish sell, on hold until better market conditions are present. Howard said the meeting resulted in the decision to proceed with the cattle sale, while holding off on that of the catfish. He said the two discussed the possible expansion of the catfish operations as a route to bring up the ranch&8217;s profits.

Wallis said he thinks Riley and Allen are both looking at all aspects of the ranch sale, but said it is his understanding that the sale of the ranch has not been put on hold.

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Riley&8217;s Press Secretary, Tara Hutchinson, echoed Wallis&8217; sentiments.

Howard said the cattle operations at the ranch are at an end, as the sale of the herd at the property began yesterday. He said, however, he would like to see the DOC retain the ranch&8217;s catfish operation and the facility&8217;s lands, while expanding the catfish production to alleviate financial concerns.

Howard has worked to halt the sale of the ranch since Riley and Allen announced their intention to do so in a press conference at the State Capitol on July 11, citing discrepancies in the financial records held by the ranch and the DOC.

Riley and Allen first announce the sale of the ranch and four other properties as a way to fill a $28 million deficit in the DOC operating budget in a press release prior to the press conference, before announcing that the funds generated by the sale will go towards $90 million worth of capital improvements needed by the department. Both said the properties slated for sale were unneeded drains on taxpayers, which the sale would alleviate.

No date has yet been set for the completion of the sale process for the ranch, which is currently in the appraisal stage prior to the call for bids and is being overseen by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources&8217; State Lands Division.