• Michael Yelvington

Franklin County officials move forward with rehab center

Updated: Feb 2, 2020

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The phrase ‘we don’t meth around’ is known across Franklin County.

Sheriff A.J. Smith is determined to get the drug out of the county.

To help accomplish this goal, Smith and his staff is hoping to bring a rehabilitation center to the county.

Bay-City Wellness is the name of the facility and Smith wants to update and convert an old Department of Corrections Work Camp.

This facility off Highway 98 near the Water Treatment Plant was given to the county about 10 years ago.

On Monday, Sheriff Smith attended a Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, which is part of the legislative process to get the plans moving forward.

“There’s a lot of different committees it’s going to have to go through and then it has to be approved by the Governor. Hopefully, he won’t veto it. There’s a lot of projects out there across the state and we’re hoping we can be at the top of the list because it is so important,” Smith said.

Smith says Representative Jason Shoaf is a sponsor on the bill, Representative Loranne Ausley is a co-sponsor and Senator Bill Montford is also supporting it when it goes through the Senate. He says having the support from those individuals will go a long way in this process.

“I know representative Shoaf has a large district and a lot of issues and a lot of appropriations that he’s done. All the counties have needs and the thing about this is, it’s not just for Franklin County. Gulf County, Wakulla County, Liberty County, we’re going to help those people too. We’re going to have a place that these folks can go.”

Smith put in for two separate appropriations, one for $1 million and another for $350,000.

“That will do part of it and staff it but engineers went in and said it was going to cost two million dollars to rehab the entire facility but I’m going to do it a little bit at a time.”

He says the legal side of the process is also being covered. “A good friend of mine, Scott Dick is a lobbyist who’s doing it pro-bono for us because he knows the process, he knows a lot of the legislatures and so it takes all this to get it done.” When it comes to the inmate population in Franklin County, Smith says most of those men and women are in for drug-related incidents.

“Probably 90% of inmates in my jail are there because of drugs directly or indirectly. They’ve committed a crime to get the drugs or they’ve been caught with drugs.” Smith says this facility will not only serve Franklin County but also the surrounding counties. He says this week alone, his office has gotten a visit from a Wakulla County and Gulf County residents.

“If we get one or two or three or four, it’s going to make a difference. All these people have children, they have families and they want to be productive parts of the community and that’s what this rehab center will mean. It will be a place for someone to come and get healed and get better.”

The process is still in the beginning stages. Stay with News 13 as we continue to cover the progress of the Bay-City Wellness Center.

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