Congressman Steve Southerland visited Gadsden County last week.
Southerland was in town to speak with Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young.
Young and Southerland spent several hours together.
The pair first toured a Quincy tomato packing house and talked about Young’s plans for the facility.
Young explained that his plans were to turn the 74,000 square foot building into a youth center.
“We don’t have a safe haven for our youth in the county,” Young said concerning the need for a place for young people to gather.
Young added that young people in the county have nothing to do after school or in the summers.
“We see our crimes go up in the summer,” he said, “and we are trying to put together summer programs to keep our kids busy.”
The building, he told Southerland, was located dead center in the county.
Like Thomas County, Georgia, which started with one facility in the center of the county and now has three facilities across the county, Young said his hopes were to be able one day to do the same.
Prior to the tour, Southerland watched a slide show presentation that included some of the possible uses for the facility.
Those included basketball courts, workout centers, tennis and a host of other activities on the 35-acre complex.
Young told Southerland that one of the major problems with such a program was the need for both state and federal funding.
In response, Southerland asked what the cost was for the vision the sheriff had for the facility.
Richard Davison, legal counsel for the sheriff, responded that the cost of the building and land would be about $1.5 million (they are valued at $4 to $5 million) with another $2 million to build out the complex.
Total cost, he said, was about $4 million.
Southerland responded by saying that he would talk with the Florida delegation and see what they could do for the project.
During the tour of the tomato packing house Southerland commented that he could see where the facility would work to house sports activities.
He added that he wanted to talk with state representatives as well as the governor.
“You have so much to work with here,” Southerland told Young about the facility.
About projects such as this one, Southerland said funding now was becoming very difficult. One of the problems, he said, was how funding was appropriated now.
There are no earmarks for funding, he said. The funds are given to agencies that then distribute how it is to be spent.
The question, he said, was how do representatives do what the Founding Fathers intended to truly be a representative form of government, but do it in a way that there is integrity, and earmarks are not abused and the American people taken advantage of.
“Let’s continue to talk about this issue and see what we can do,” Southerland said.
The tour continued to the Gadsden County jail where Young spoke to Southerland about his idea of taking over the state prison that is located next to the jail if the Department of Corrections should decide to close that facility.
In comparison, Southerland said that “if we do a better job with facilities like the youth center, we will not need anymore prison facilities.”
Young said his plan for the prison located next to the jail (should the state decide to close it) would be to house the sheriff’s office, local jail and possibly federal detainees there.
The federal detainees (which the federal government would pay a daily rate for housing them) would help offset cost of the jail operations and create new jobs at the same time, Young stated.
Young said the federal detainees was where he needed Southerland’s help.
He continued saying that there were three Florida sheriffs already housing federal detainees.
Southerland said he would have his support staff contact the sheriff’s office about more detailed information.
Southerland said he would look at the federal side of the issues and added that, “obviously we are looking at ways to save money.”