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Houston County Courier - Local News

Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company

CEIDC negotiating for CSS occupant
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones
Editor-in-Chief

The figurative "Vacant" sign on the former Crockett State School (CSS) gates appears slightly closer to being changed to "Occupied". The agenda for the Crockett City Council for Monday, Sept. 9, suggests the mayor and Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corp. (CEIDC) officials had a successful trip to Austin two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, on Aug. 26, Mayor Wayne Mask, CEIDC Executive Director Thom Lambert and CEIDC Board President Chris von Doenhoff met with officials from the General Land Office and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) regarding a potential new tenant for the facility that the state abandoned two years ago. The final action item on Monday's city council agenda states: "Consider and approve a resolution authorizing Mayor Wayne Mask, authorized representative of the City of Crockett, to proceed with the transfer of the Crockett State School property from the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, through the General Land Office of Texas, to the City of Crockett." The state owns the property, but it can transfer it to a county or a city, if requested, TJJD Communications Manager Jim Hurley explained to the Courier. Also on Friday afternoon, Lambert and von Doenhoff confirmed the CEIDC and the City of Crockett are in the "very early stages of negotiations" with Cornerstone Programs, a Utah-based juvenile rehabilitation institution. In Texas, Cornerstone Programs operates the Garza County Regional Detention Center for both male and female juvenile offenders in Post. Hurley said Cornerstone Programs contracts with the state in Post, and that they seem to run a good program. von Doenhoff said Friday that he has been out to the facility in Post and is quite impressed with what Cornerstone Programs does there. "They take care of juveniles from just about every direction," von Doenhoff said. He explained some of the juveniles are placed there by the federal court system, some are placed by the State of Texas and some are placed by individual counties in that region. According to von Doenhoff, if negotiations are successful, he expects Cornerstone Programs to operate the same type of facility in Crockett as it does in Post. "I'm excited. I think all involved have good intentions," von Doenhoff said. He also said Cornerstone Programs officials have made several trips to the CSS site and he thinks they are serious. "I am hopeful that in the next few weeks we'll be able to sit down and work out a contract," von Doenhoff said. Cornerstone Programs made its first visit to the CSS site in April, a visit coordinated by the CEIDC and Mel Brown and Associates. Mel Brown and Associates is a management and consulting firm that provides training, consultation, technical assistance and planning and research to small businesses and both government and private human, health and social service agencies. While Houston County Judge Ford is not involved in the current negotiations, soon after taking office, he introduced Mel Brown and Associates to the county commissioners court and to the CEIDC. When Lambert spoke with the Courier Friday afternoon, he emphasized that the CEIDC is in the "very early stages of negotiations" with Cornerstone Programs for the CSS property. "It's far from a done deal," Lambert stressed. As for potential economic impact to the city and county, Lambert said, "It is really big." He explained how the primary employment that a business brings spins off to benefit other businesses in the community, and that's where the area gets its economic impact. If, and Lambert emphasized if, the negotiations are successful and Cornerstone Programs does move into the CSS facility, the company may start with 30-40 new jobs, and ultimately maybe as many as 100 jobs. Additional impact would be in tax revenue because Cornerstone Programs is a private, for-profit corporation. If the organization comes to Crockett, the CSS property that has been tax exempt because it was operated by the state, would be added to the City of Crockett, Crockett I.S.D. And Houston County ad valorem tax rolls. There also would be the potential of additional sales tax revenue, not only from employees shopping in Crockett, but the organization itself, Lambert said. He explained that any taxable items purchased locally by Cornerstone Programs would be taxable just as it is for any other citizen or private business. When asked about incentives offered to Cornerstone Programs by the CEIDC, Lambert said, "We haven't gotten that far along yet. There will be incentives, but we don't even know what they want yet." If negotiations progress to that point, CEIDC and Cornerstone Programs will negotiate incentives and then the CEIDC Board of Directors will vote on whether to approve them, Lambert explained. He did note that, if Cornerstone Programs comes to Crockett, the company will have a large capital expense. He explained that when the state closed CSS, it took all furniture and appliances. von Doenhoff noted that a selling point to Cornerstone Programs is that the new air conditioners installed at CSS just weeks before its closure are still at the facility. Lambert said again, "These things take time. It's not a done deal in any way, shape or form." Nonetheless, Lambert and von Doenhoff both expressed excitement at the possibility

 

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