- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. (AP) - A group of Oklahoma Corrections Department inmates and staff is brainstorming development plans for a sprawling, recently closed state facility in Pauls Valley.

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1RZK5fm ) reports that specific plans for the facility are far from being established, but eight inmates and one staff member are assessing the property at the Southern Oklahoma Resource Center, a former treatment center and home for residents with severe developmental disabilities.

“I think the potential in my mind and on paper right now is that (the property) has an incredible opportunity to be an important cog in the (Oklahoma Corrections Department) wheel,” said Joe Allbaugh, the agency’s director. “There could be a wonderful future there for Pauls Valley and the county.”

Allbaugh said inmates aren’t staying overnight in Pauls Valley. The work crew is bused there to and from a Lexington prison.

The 600-acre property has at least 29 buildings. Agency spokeswoman Terri Watkins says the property’s central location in Oklahoma was attractive to corrections officials.

The now-defunct Human Services Commission, which governed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, voted to close the facility in November 2012 as its last official action. The loss of the facility, which had operated for more than 100 years, was a blow to Pauls Valley and its surrounding communities.

With about 300 area residents as employees, it had been the third-largest employer in the Pauls Valley behind a Walmart distribution center and the local school district.

Mayor Gary Alfred said city officials are anxious to hear what will happen with the property.

“I think any time you hear the Department of Corrections is coming to town, there’s a little bit of a stigma that comes with that,” Alfred said. “That being said, until we know what is going to be there, we really can’t jump to conclusions.”


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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