- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Southeast Arkansas Community Correction Center in Pine Bluff will move to a former hospital in West Memphis that’s been vacant since 2014.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson approved the move to the former Crittenden County Hospital late Friday, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/1XUEokD ).

“The change in location is in the best interest of the state and its financial constraints,” the governor said in a letter to Arkansas Community Correction Director Sheila Sharp and Arkansas Board of Corrections Chairman Benny Magness. “The financial consideration of the state in leasing the facility and investing to retrofit it for community correction purpose outweighs expenditure of taxpayer dollars to mend the many flaws” at the Pine Bluff facility, Hutchinson said.

The Board of Corrections on March approved leasing the building from the county for $1 a year.

The facilities in Pine Bluff need millions of dollars in upgrades and repairs, while the hospital will require an estimated $650,000 in upgrades, including secure doors and windows and surveillance equipment.

The timing of the move, which would affect 138 employees and about 350 nonviolent female inmates, was not revealed.

Pine Bluff officials and two state lawmakers had lobbied against the move. State Reps. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, and Ken Ferguson, D-Pine Bluff said that they respect the governor’s decision, but are concerned about the impact of the move on the local economy.

“It would be an understatement to say that we are disappointed in this outcome and concerned about the impact that this move will have on the affected employees and residents as well as their respective families,” Flowers said.

The 50-year-old hospital has been owned by Crittenden County since it was built and County Judge Woody Wheeless said the county has spent close to $1 million on upkeep.

“Over the past several years Crittenden County has had very little growth in the job sector,” Wheeless said. “(The) 138 jobs are much needed in our county.”


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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