ADOC will accept offer on Farquhar

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2008

GREENSBORO &045; The fate of more than half of the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch property is one step closer to being decided.

Brian Corbett, the Alabama Department of Corrections public information manager, said the department will continue their commitment to approve the offer made by the Alabama Forever Wild Land Trust board of trustees on parcels of the 3,988 acres of property of the ranch.

The Forever Wild board of trustees decided Thursday to proceed with the purchase of the land after receiving a second appraisal of the land, which was equal to or less than the original appraisal.

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Gregory M. Lein, assistant director of the natural heritage section of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said Thursday the board authorized the closing (of the purchase) of the property. Lein said the board is trying to finalize the purchase of the land within the next 30 days.

Corbett said the sale of the property was put on hold after Forever Wild expressed interest, due to the tract’s prairie habitat unique to the Black Belt region. ADOC Commissioner Richard Allen must accept an offer by the organization before the process is complete, and Corbett said the remaining two parcels of the property would be open for bids.

Corbett also said the Alabama Department of Conservation, the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles and the ADOC were having &8220;talks&8221; about the possible location of a technical violator’s center on the remaining portions of the ranch. The three departments had a meeting scheduled for Monday to assess the property and see if it would meet the needs for the parole board’s facility. However, Corbett said Friday the meeting was cancelled.

Corbett said, although the ABOPP lacked funding to purchase the property, the department was interested in the use of the property with the assistance of the department of conservation.

Cynthia Dillard, the executive director of the ABOPP, said in an interview with The Times last month the board would be willing, in the future, to lease the property of interest if another state agency were to buy the land before the ADOC opened the property for public bids.

Dillard said the ABOPP will not attempt to purchase any of the property it has expressed interest in at the ranch, however, she said she feels the facilities located on a 431-acre parcel at the ranch are well suited for the needs of the agency.

She said capital needed for ABOPP to purchase the property is not currently available to proceed with the planned center.

Sale background

-Gov. Bob Riley and Allen announced their intention to sell the ranch and four other ALDOC properties at a July 11 press conference, stating only state lands that were a drain on taxpayers and had a previous interest expressed in their purchase would be sold.

After conflicting figures from the ranch and the ALDOC shed doubt on the financial viability of the ranch, Howard, has worked to stop the sale and find ways to increase its profitability.

Riley and Allen said money generated by the sale of the ranch and the four other properties listed at the press conference would go toward the more than $90 million in capital improvement projects for Alabama Department of Corrections facilities.

Riley and Allen said originally said all property that will be sold will be appraised, advertised and sold to the highest bidder.

Forever Wild Background

-FWLT was established in 1992 after a state constitutional amendment was passed by an 83-percent vote &045; the largest margin of any land trust amendment in any southeastern state. The lands are managed under a multiple use management principle to ensure all resources &045; including recreation, hunting, fishing, boating, hiking, aesthetics, soil, water, forests and minerals &045; are protected or enhanced. The State Lands Division must write a management plan that is presented to the board for approval within one year of property purchase.