Members of the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County on Tuesday supported the idea of the Arkansas Department of Correction locating another prison in the county.

Members of the Economic Development Corp. of Jefferson County on Tuesday supported the idea of the Arkansas Department of Correction locating another prison in the county.


The group, which is responsible for administering the three-eights cent sales tax that was approved by Jefferson County voters for economic development purposes, asked its staff support at the Economic Development Alliance for Jefferson County to look for possible sites that match the criteria established for another prison, which would produce up to 250 jobs initially, then expand to 500.


"We’re talking about 500 jobs," former White Hall Mayor James "Jitters" Morgan said. "There’s got to be some property across the river that is not being used."


The criteria set for the new prison calls for a minimum of 400 acres, and Bryan Barnhouse, economic development director for the Alliance, said the properties currently owned by the Alliance do not fit that criteria.


"It’s probably not the most sexy business but it is steady and we ought to try and pursue it," said George Makris, chairman of the Economic Development Corp.


Morgan also asked about property located adjacent to NCTR that is designated as the Bioplex, hoping to attract industries in the biomedical and technology fields.


Both Makris and Barnhouse said when the Alliance acquired that property from the Army, there were strings attached, including a covenant that says the property can only be used as a Bioplex.


"It’s not being used for anything right now," Morgan said.


Makris asked Scott McGeorge, who was attending the meeting by a telephone conference, and Barnhouse to contact Jefferson County Judge Dutch King, who has also been working to find a location for the new prison.


Correction Department officials have been seeking proposals from interested counties for the new facility, which is projected to cost $10 million to construct.


On another subject, Makris said the situation with the Horizon/Summit Foods chicken plant is still in limbo as the planned sale of the property and assets to a new set of investors is on hold.


"There’s some new funding they’re trying to put in place," Makris said. "I think it would be in our best interest to cooperate for the time being, even though we’ve had offers to sell our equipment."


When Horizon Foods was first established, the corporation purchased refrigeration equipment with money from the sales tax, and that money was to be paid back by the company by creating jobs.


Makris said the board is currently paying $200 per month for security at the plant on West Barraque Street to ensure that the existing equipment is not vandalized until new owners can take over.


"It’s important that we maintain security," Makris said.