August 20, 2014 Edition

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JPs approve applying
for state prison

The Lawrence County Quorum Court recently voted against submitting an application for a $100 million maximum-security state prison with a 5-4 vote.

After an influx of calls from residents expressing a desire to have the prison built in the county, a public information meeting was held Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.

A vote was taken at the end of the meeting to rescind the previous decision and revote. The court voted 8-0 with Justice Jim Jones absent. Full coverage of the meeting can be found in next week's edition of The Times Dispatch.

What LawCo. can expect from a state prison

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

While debates continue on whether or not Lawrence County should apply to house a maximum-security state prison, information about the proposed prison and its potential impact on the county is limited in there early stages.

The Arkansas Board of Corrections and the Arkansas Department of Correction sent out legal notices to various communities asking for their assistance in the efforts to build a new prison.

The facility would house 1,000 inmates and employ 250 poeple initially and be expandable to 2,000 beds with 500 employees. Inmates will count toward the population of the city if within its limits or to the county if outside.

ADC Public Information Officer Shea Wilson said starting pay is set at $12.75 per hour but officers are also eligible for hazardous duty pay enhancements and other raises at six-months and one-year intervals, plus other promotional opportunities.

The site for the prison would require 400 acres of generally flat land in close proximity to medical resources and a higher education facility for staff retention and development.

County Judge Dale Freeman said he has found a location but will not pursue it until filing an application is approved.

He said that Lawrence County is ideally situated with Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Black River Technical College available, as well as the Walnut Ridge Airport and train system, which he said should also act as incentives.

Other businesses are expected to get a boon from the prison, and many Lawrence County officials said additional housing and hotels would be needed.

According to Wilson, there will not be a full-scale farming operation connected with the facility but the prison would eventually have garden operations to help supply fresh fruits and vegetables.

The deadline to submit the application is Oct. 24. "We really don't have any idea of how many to expect," Wilson said. "We've heard news reports from areas that have indicated interest, but until we have the actual proposals in house, there is really no way to tell."

After a location is selected and funding is in place, Wilson said construction start-up would probably be three years down the road, and the completion of the facility would take three to five years.

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