County not likely to give land

Published 1:58 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Commissioners respond to pushback on facility

Eight days after the Covington County Commission joined South Central Alabama Mental Health (SCAMH) and the Alabama Department of Mental Health to announce their partnership for an “economic development project” that would bring 25 jobs and a forensic mental health facility to Andalusia, members of the commission appear to be backing away from the project.

In December, the commission purchased five acres adjacent to the county jail to be used for the facility. Commissioners said only the property was for economic development.

Pushback from community members concerned about the security of such a facility came quickly as word of the facility spread. Presiding Circuit Judge Lex Short has been the most outspoken of the critics.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Commission Chairman Greg White issued a statement indicating he would ask fellow commissioners to reconsider transferring the property to SCAMH.

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

Commissioner Kyle Adams quickly responded via social media, and said there is not need for the item to be on the agenda.

“Each commissioner has received numerous calls with citizens’ concerns about the said facility, and all have expressed their desire to not offer land purchased by the Covington County Commission to Mental Health to build this facility,” Adams said. “Without having any commissioner to support this, I see no reason for it to be on the agenda on March 12th.

“I hope that those of you who requested to be on the agenda will still come to the meeting and express any concerns about this or anything else,” Adams said.

According to a tentative agenda for the March 12 meeting circulated on Tuesday, three people had asked to be placed on the agenda for public comments. They included Phil Tisdale, Jerry Andrews and Pat Strength.