Meeting on Phelps closure held between local, state officials - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Meeting on Phelps closure held between local, state officials

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BATON ROUGE, LA (KPLC) -

Some local officials spent most of the day in Baton Rouge on Wednesday, meeting with state officials about the planned closure of Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy. 
 
The announcement came last Friday in a news release to local and state media.

"It's like they took $200,000 out of our budget Friday," said DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan. "For a $2.6 million budget, that's a pretty good lick." 

The impact of Phelps Correctional Center closing on Nov. 1 will be felt all across Southwest Louisiana. And Wednesday, Henagan, Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach and Vinton Mayor Kenny Stinson met with House Speaker, state Rep. Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, and state officials to make that clear.

"Mayor Henagan voiced his frustrations and his concerns," Kleckley said. "His message was very loud and very clear." 

After the meeting, the closure is still set for Nov. 1, but employees will be given the first choice for other positions in the state they qualify for.

But what about those with families?

"Tough call," Henagan said. "Tough call. That's the part that bothers me the most. I feel that God put me here for a reason, to represent these people. Times like this, it's what can we do to make this as painless as possible. It's going to be tough." 

Another option discussed for Phelps is privatization. Kleckley said a committee is already being formed.

"Their goal will be to go out and find a private company to come in there to take over the facility or run the facility," Kleckley said. 

Henagan said he walked away from the meeting with a better understanding for what's going on but not how the state handled it.

"You go in a meeting like that, and you try to handle it right, but it's kind of one of those times you got to get it off your chest," Henagan said. "Y'all did a poor job on this. I told them, I said, you can't get down here and look at numbers on a piece of paper without remembering each one of those numbers represents a person, represents a family."

Members of the Work Force Commission will be at Phelps on Thursday and Friday to meet with employees about their options.

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