White will ask commission to rescind property offer to SCAMH

Published 5:06 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Covington County Chairman Greg White announced that he has decided to ask the Covington County Commission to rescind its offer of property to South Central Alabama Mental Health for its $1.5 million forensic mental health facility.

In December, the commission purchased five acres adjacent to the county jail for the facility, which is called only an “economic development.” Alabama’s Open Meetings law allows government bodies to discuss real estate transactions and economic development in private but requires actual votes to be taken in public.

Since last Tuesday, the Star-News has had numerous inquiries about whether the facility is a “done deal,” and what they can do if they oppose it. Circuit Judge Lex Short has been vocal in his opposition to it, raising concerns about security as well as Former District Judge Trippy McGuire.

White said the following about his decision:

“There has been much discussion in the last few days about a proposed Forensic Residential Facility to be located in Covington County.  This facility is to be built by South Central Alabama Mental Health, who has entered a contract with the Alabama Dept of Mental Health, and will provide evaluation and/or treatment of persons deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial or who are claiming innocence by reason of insanity.

“The County Commission responded to the proposed locating of this facility in Covington County by offering a site adjacent to the Covington County Jail, believing that this would be the most secure location possible, rather than on property already owned by South Central Mental Health.  Further, the Commission took these steps in good faith, and South Central moved forward in good faith.

“Due to the significant press and conversation throughout the County since the announcement on February 26, and genuine fear throughout the community of what a facility of this sort might lead to in our community, I am asking that the Commission rescind its offer of property to South Central Alabama Mental Health.

“I expect the Commission to consider this recommendation at the Commission’s next meeting on Tuesday, March 12.”