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Penal Farm talks tabled

by Minden Press-Herald

Discussion on what to do with the Webster Parish Penal Farm has been tabled until after the first of the year.

In the Webster Parish Police Jury’s buildings and grounds committee meeting Tuesday, jurors began talking about the fate of the old prison, some saying they wanted to sell it, others saying they wanted to keep the property.

One thing made clear, though, is that if anything is sold, it will be the prison facility and the warden’s house, which is about 10 acres. The rest of the property will remain with the jury.
Juror Daniel Thomas says keeping the property is just costing the taxpayers money. Jury president Jim Bonsall says he’d like to keep it as he sees it as an investment.

However, Thomas added he is adamant about doing something with the penal farm and the warden’s house; he just doesn’t see why they need to keep the rest of the property.

Bonsall says it’s a good access point to the jury’s remaining property, but Thomas says an easement would alleviate that issue.

“This is one of the main access points to the rest of our property out there,” Bonsall said.

“I love land, but when we are elected, are we really elected to go investing in growing pine trees?” Thomas asked. “Is that really the best use of the taxpayers’ money? If you’re thinking about putting an industrial park there later on or a gravel pit there later on, I understand that. To me, it changes up what we’re elected to do.”

Bonsall says for him, the property is more valuable, adding the prison is not, but the property itself is the asset.

“It is one of the prime pieces of property over there just because of the location,” he said. “I’m not telling you that if there was a company to come along wanting to build something that might hire 25 people, I’d be tickled to sell it to them.”

Juror Steve Lemmons also brought up the fact that if an oil company approached them with lease options that would be a win-win.

Committee chairman Randy Thomas says they need to look at the facility and the house, once the house is vacated to assess its current condition. Discussion will resume once that has taken place.

In other jury news, during its regular meeting, they approved:

– the certification of tax rolls. Only two companies contested their assessments. Will Drill only contested so they could take their issue to Baton Rouge, parish assessor officials say. Autozone took issue with their inventory tax.

– recreation expenses: $420 to purchase a heater for the Cullen Senior Center (district 2), $182.73 (district 2) and $719.29 (district 9) to purchase kitchen equipment for the Webster Parish Head Start, $800 (district 9) and $800 (district 10) to build a fence and for van repair for the Webster Parish Council on Aging.

– the appointment of Bobby Dodson as board chairman for Cullen Fire District 6, replacing Ted Owens.

– Third quarter budget amendments.

– and off-system bridge system requirements for 2014.

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