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State cattle ranch sale possible to fund DOC

GREENSBORO (AP) — Gov. Bob Riley is reviewing recommendations on ways to plug a $30 million hole in the Alabama Department of Corrections’ operating budget, including selling the state’s 4,610-acre cattle ranch.

Corrections commissioner Richard Allen met with the governor last week after speaking of his recommendations with the press.

Riley must approve the recommendations before any action is taken at the Farquhar Cattle Ranch in Greensboro or adjacent properties.

Corrections officials are hoping plans to sell several pieces of state property will make up the deficit in the department’s fiscal 2008 budget, but critics have questioned the wisdom of selling capital assets to generate annual operating funds.

The Senate approved $343.3 million for the corrections department’s 2008 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Operating costs for 2006 were $372.6 million and corrections asked that $472 million be allocated for 2008.

Economic impact

One parcel of corrections land — the 540-acre West End Swamp on the cattle ranch — has already been auctioned in a controversial sale for $1.625 million.

Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, whose 72nd district encompasses Hale, Marengo, Perry and Bibb counties, said the sale of the ranch will have far reaching economic impact of the area he represents.

Howard, who wants production at the ranch increased, said he spoke with Allen prior to the meeting with Riley and understood that the entire property is being recommended for sale.

“It is my understanding that everything is still being considered,” Howard said. “The state has financed projects for Honda, Mercedes and the ThyssenKrupp plants. We need to face the fact that we have state prisons, or let them go.”

In the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2006 the department found that the farm portion of the revenues brought from Alabama Correctional Industries work programs statewide, which include the sale of cattle, timber and land use, catfish production, crops and other income, topped $2.4 million.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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