Issue of Phelps land deed still unclear - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Issue of Phelps land deed still unclear

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C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy
Inside the Phelps facility in late 2012. Inside the Phelps facility in late 2012.
Phelps inmates leaving in late 2012. Phelps inmates leaving in late 2012.
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DEQUINCY, LA (KPLC) -

Friday is the day that C. Paul Phelps Correction prison land could revert back to the landowner, or at least that's what conveyance records from the 1950s said would happen if the land ever stopped being used as a prison.

But on Friday, 90 days since the prison closed, it's unclear what, if anything, it may mean concerning the future of the facility.

Phelps operated in DeQuincy for decades thanks to Edgewood Land and Logging Company which, as conveyance records from 1956 show, give the state of Louisiana use of the land as long as it continued to be for what was then called, Louisiana Correctional Institute.

The document said if the land should be used for any other purpose for 90 days, then it would revert back to the owner.

The grantor was G.L. Paret whose grandson, George, confirms that the land was later sold to Owens Illinois, a company that has no holdings in Louisiana.

So, it's unclear if the passage of 90 days will affect anything.

Pam Laborde, communications director with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, released this statement on Friday to KPLC about the deed issue:

"DOC believes that the stipulation in the original deed -- to revert the Phelps property back to the original owner (Edgewood Land and Logging Company, Ltd.) should the land not be used as a correctional facility -- became a moot point when the company was dissolved and ceased to exist. The state will continue to explore options for the future use of the facility that will benefit the community. We will work with attorneys to make sure any disposition of the property will be beneficial to the taxpayers and in accordance with the law."

You can view the deed documents HERE.

Officials with the Southwest Chamber Economic Development Alliance continue efforts to find someone to use the facility.

While privatization of the facility for a prison has been discussed, economic developers are tight-lipped about who, if anyone, may be interested.

A private company opening a prison would need inmates, either from the state of federal government, which pays more to house inmates.

DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan said he and other officials remain hopeful that economic development efforts will pay off so they can provide jobs for the 269 families directly affected by the closure.

Calcasieu Police Jury President Shannon Spell is also optimistic.

"We're very concerned, not only to the direct impact of our neighbors up north, but the indirect impacts to Calcasieu Parish, the economy as a whole," Spell said.

Henagan and some other local officials are traveling to Washington, D.C. at the end of the month to meet with Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., to see if she can assist as they explore options to get Phelps, or some replacement enterprise, up and running.

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