Mayor commends county; ‘project should be stopped’

Published 2:20 am Friday, March 8, 2019

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson on Thursday commended Covington County Commission for changing its plans to provide recently-acquired property to South Central Alabama Mental Health (SCAMH) for a forensic mental health facility,

Last week, the commission hosted a groundbreaking and reception at the property, located adjacent to the Covington County Jail, and joined the Alabama Department of Mental Health and SCAMH in announcing the new facility, touting it as an economic development project that would bring 25 new jobs.

But on Wednesday, Commission Chairman Greg White issued a statement saying he would ask the commission to rescind its offer to SCAMH when it meets on Tuesday, March 12.

Commissioner Kyle Adams also provided a statement to the media, and said other commissioners have already agreed to not offer the land to SCAMH.

The statements were issued on Wednesday at about the same time Johnson sent a letter to commissioners asking them to rethink their position.

“I commend Commissioner White and the county commissioners for taking another look at this project and listening to the voice of the citizens and their concern about the impact this facility would have on our community,” Johnson said Thursday. “I encourage them to reverse their decision and not support this at the county jail or anywhere else in Covington County.”

The mayor said he plans to attend the Tuesday meeting.

“I will, however, be at the county commission meeting on Tuesday to make sure that the voice of the people of Andalusia is heard by the county commissioners,” he said.

In his earlier letter to commissioners, he said he was dismayed to learn at last week’s groundbreaking that “murderers, rapists, and other potentially dangerous people could be housed indefinitely in this facility.”

He said he also was concerned that the project moved to the groundbreaking stage without an opportunity for public input.

“Since the groundbreaking, I have had the opportunity to do some legal research into the operation of such a facility and I have talked to legal professionals who deal with the kind of issues that such a facility will create,” he said. “This research and the unanimous opinions of these professionals has convinced me that the project should be stopped.”

The commission will meet at 9 a.m. on Tues., March 12.