Citizens urged to take second look at CEC

On July 26 many concerned citizens attended a public hearing regarding Community Education Centers&8217; (CEC) plans to renovate an existing building in Columbiana and hire approximately 100 employees from the area.

CEC&8217;s contract with the Alabama Department of Corrections is to provide intensive treatment and educational programs focused on significantly reducing inmates&8217; chances of returning to criminal activities after prison.

Non-violent inmates are carefully screened and selected to participate in this six to nine month training program and are returned to a state correctional facility upon successful completion.

This is not a work release program and the inmates will never leave the facility while in Columbiana. Everyone attending the public hearing had the opportunity to get the facts first-hand.

CEC has more than 130 facilities administrating successful programs in 22 states. This will be its first facility in Alabama and the Southeast. CEC has a proven reputation for being responsible and responsive to areas where facilities are located. Based on personal observations and research, I see no increased threat to public safety.

Last week, three council members, acting police Chief Lamar Vick and I were flown, at CEC&8217;s expense, to Newark to tour Talbot Hall, a CEC facility. Each of us was very impressed with what we saw. It is difficult to describe just how much distance separates the facility&8217;s successful focus on safety, security, rehabilitation from the fears of some of our citizens.

If CEC locates here, I expect lodging facilities and other businesses to come, providing good jobs and attracting even more commercial development. Do not forget approximately two hundred textile jobs are leaving Columbiana for Honduras. In October, city leaders and I will attend the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Atlanta to recruit retail businesses, adding to the two new restaurants, bank and 150 new homes expected.

Residential property values in the area are a concern. My experience in real estate sales, coupled with the manner in which CEC renovated and maintains the New Jersey facility, gives me cause to believe there will be no decrease in residential property values.

I appreciate the concerns our citizens. Legitimate concerns will be considered now, during construction and after operations begin, if approved. Please understand fears of conditions that simply will not exist cannot be considered by the council. We were elected to make decisions in the best interest of our city, a responsibility we take very seriously.

Please learn more about Community Education Centers&8217; facilities by visiting www.cecintl.com.

Allan Lowe is mayor of Columbiana