State and local officials meet again to discuss Phelps' next ste - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

State and local officials meet again to discuss Phelps' next steps

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As the clock counts down until the gates at the Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy close for good, state and local legislators aren't backing down from the fight ensuring the least negative impact on Phelps employees. 

"There's not a day that goes by that I'm not dealing with something about Phelps right now," said DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan. "I'm committed to doing that until we get some solutions to it and we get some people back to work." 

Henagan, along with Mayors Kenneth Stinson (Vinton) and Randy Roach (Lake Charles), met Thursday with House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles; Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulphur; and Sen. John Smith, R-Leesville; to continue brainstorming what happens next.

"We're trying to organize and have a broad discussion about the future," said Smith. "Mostly what can we do to mitigate the economic and social disaster to the 269 families that were directly affected by the closure." 

While the future is still unclear for lawmakers and things weren't set in stone on Thursday, the issue of finding and creating jobs was one of the key points at the closed door meeting. Also on the agenda, the legal battle with the Phelps deed, which states if the land is not used as a prison, it reverts back to it's original owners. A legal loophole area legislators think the Jindal administration may have overlooked. 

"It shows their short-sightedness in making the decision," Smith said. "They didn't examine all of the things that accompany the closure of this prison. The deed is a good example of that."

When asked how they think it will be played out, Smith responded, "They're reaction is we hadn't considered that, but there is an answer to that. We don't know what that answer may be but that's what they've explained to us so far."

Until anything changes, reality remains that Nov. 1 is less than 40 days away. 

"I'm not giving up," said Henagan. "I'm fighting for the 269 families. So, are they going to be able to keep their job right now? Probably not.  Are we going to work out and come up with some kind of solution where a lot of them can come back and have a job there? I'm working for it," said Henagan. 

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