Mayor: Under Phelps land deed, come Nov. 1, 'clock starts tickin - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Mayor: Under Phelps land deed, come Nov. 1, 'clock starts ticking' for state

A land deed, filed in Beauregard Parish in May 1956, says that the land that makes up C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy must be used for correctional purposes or it reverts back to the original "grantor."

A land agreement was inked between the Edgewood Land & Logging Company, Ltd. and the state of Louisiana regarding the 600 acres that Phelps now sits on.

The deed, dated Sept. 29, 1955, outlines that the property must be used for correctional purposes, and in three months if it is not, the land reverts back to the original owner.

According to abstract records filed in Beauregard Parish, Edgewood Land & Logging, Ltd. had land holdings in the area as early as the 1890s. Holdings, however, were sold in the 1960s.

DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan spoke to KPLC about the deed. He believes the deed is still legally binding. He said the city has attorneys looking over the documents.

"The deed says if over 90 days, it is not used as a prison, the land reverts back to the landowner," he said. "That's the way I interpret it. Mind you, I do not have a law degree."

KPLC obtained a copy of the deed. It says, "It is agreed and understood that part of the consideration hereof (without which this conveyance would not have been made) is the declared purpose of the Department of Institutions, State of Louisiana, to use the above described land as a site for The Louisiana Correctional Institute as established by Act No. 729 of the Legislature of Louisiana for the year 1954, and that full title to said land shall ipso facto revert to the grantor, Edgewood Land & Logging Company, Ltd., in the event said land is not used for said purpose for any continuous period of three months."

Henagan said state officials have been advised of the deed. He said they were told about it at a meeting this week between local mayors, area lawmakers and state officials.

"They didn't do their homework. When we met with them Wednesday, we asked them if they had seen the deed. They said, ‘no.' Mayor Roach (Lake Charles) said, ‘I suggest you look at it because you need to.' They have a problem they have to resolve there and one they didn't know about," Henagan said.

Henagan said under the deed, the state could privatize the facility, but it can't be used for anything else. Privatization requires Legislative approval, according to state law.

"Come Nov. 1, the clock starts ticking, the way I see it," Henagan said, referring to Phelps' planned closure of Nov. 1. "There may be some staff there, but it's not an office facility."

Phelps Warden Robert Henderson also referenced the stipulation in an interview with KPLC this week.

Henderson said the land was "donated with the idea that it could revert to the original owners if it wasn't used as a prison," he said.

The Edgewood Land & Logging Company, Ltd. also reserved all of the oil, gas and other mineral rights in the land transaction, the deed states.

To view the deed documents, CLICK HERE.

Gov. Bobby Jindal told KPLC in a statement this week that the move to close Phelps was the "right decision."

"DOC (Louisiana Department of Corrections) made the right decision in closing Phelps. Moving prisoners from Phelps to other prisons that have excess capacity will save taxpayers millions of dollars while protecting public safety," Jindal said in the statement.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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