Mayor: DOC downtown ‘not a problem’

Although officials of the local Chamber of Commerce are not happy that the Alabama Department of Corrections has begun leasing office space on North Main Street in Atmore, the city’s chief executive officer said he doesn’t see a problem with the decision.

ALDOC has leased office space at 109 North Main for its Southern Region Investigations and Intelligence Division. The division’s investigators formerly worked out of Atmore Community Work Center, which has been closed down.

Mayor Jim Staff said he talked with corrections officials, who assured him that the work done by the downtown detectives would not present any public safety concerns.

“He said they’re moving their office from where it was, but as far as having prisoners, they won’t be interviewing any at that location,” the mayor said. “They’ll be interviewing guards. It takes five guards to bring a prisoner from out there (prison facilities) to down there (on Main Street).”

Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce President Bub Gideons expressed his discontent with the move in a letter that was published Nov. 30 in Atmore News, saying he was concerned that the move would not enhance the city’s image.

“Of all the vacant buildings on this end of Escambia County, someone in their wisdom felt like a curbside retail location in our historic downtown was the best place for the headquarters of one of our state prison detective agencies where they do interrogation of guards accused of impropriety,” Gideons wrote. “I disagree (that) this is either an appropriate or logical place for such an office.”

Bob Horton, public information manager for the state prison system, said in an emailed reply to Gideons’ concerns that DOC officials wanted to maintain the strong relationship the department has had with the city.

“We respect Mr. Gideons’ concern, but the presence of the state’s largest law enforcement agency demonstrates our pride in the longstanding relationship with the local community,” Horton wrote. “We embrace that relationship and are appreciative for the support the DOC has received from the community over the years. Our department looks forward to serving the citizens of Alabama at the new location and sharing a common interest in preserving the character of this historic town.”

Staff said he would concentrate his feelings on the positive points of the move, from which he said he didn’t expect any negative results.

“It’s not an empty building anymore, and that’s a good thing,” said the mayor. “As it is now, it’s not a problem. We’ve got (vacant) offices, and that’s what they needed. I don’t see any problem; if it becomes a problem, we’ll deal with it then.”