Dozier closure may be delayed
State senator working to extend June 30 deadline
By DEBORAH BUCKHALTER
Published: June 08, 2011
State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, has requested a temporary reprieve for Dozier employees who are facing
closure of the facility and the loss of their jobs on June 30.
Montford said he has been in contact with the Department of Juvenile Justice and asked that the closure be delayed
at least a month. He said he’s been talking with department officials ever since the closure was announced a few
“When I first became aware of the closing of Dozier a week or two ago, it was very disturbing to me,” Montford said. “I
went over there the next morning and was present when the announcement was made. I was quite surprised that the
decision was made, period, and certainly dismayed to learn it was to close June 30.
“Since then, I’ve been working on this, and I got information Friday that led me to believe Dozier didn’t have to be
closed this early, that there were some options there. I met with Secretary (Wansley) Walters from the Department of
Juvenile Justice yesterday, and asked if they could at least look at some other options to give people more time to
look for jobs,” the state senator said. “One of the options that they’re looking at is extending the closing for a month.
That would be a very complicated process to follow, but I’m cautiously optimistic that something will happen. Clearly,
the agency is in a difficult situation, but we want to make absolutely sure to give employees as much opportunity as
possible to find other work. They were concerned and receptive to my suggestion. Everybody has been very kind
and cooperative and accommodating, all in a very, very difficult situation.”
Montford said he felt closing the facility this month would be one more serious impact unnecessarily heaped on
others Jackson County is facing.
“What makes it even worse is that school districts are cutting back, we’ve got the layoffs at Chattahoochee, and
potentially devastating layoffs in the prison system; any one of these would hurt. But when you put them all together
it’s a perfect storm,” Montford said. “I’m confident that the department will do everything in its power. It’s not official,
but there’s an option now under discussion.”
If the closure is delayed, employees would be covered under their state insurance a little longer. And for some, it
could mean a difference in their retirement pay and benefits.
If the department does delay closure a month or so, the next challenge may be deciding what the employees will do
with that timr. All the boys are supposed to be out of the facility by the end of this week.
Some employees might spend that time off duty, using some of the excess accumulated leave time that they would
otherwise lose. The department will only pay for 280 hours of accrued time once the closure takes effect.
Montford said he is also working with the Department of Children and Families to see if there may be some
adjustment of the planned layoffs at Florida State Hospital. He said the department will look very carefully at the plan,
although he also acknowledged that hospital administrator Diane James has done an admirable job with that already.
“Mrs. James has done a great job in putting together the process for how the layoff will take place,” he said. “We’re
just asking that everything possible be done in helping those who are displaced. There’s so much going on. Any one
of these situations would be a challenge, but together it has a crippling effect on North Florida. It’s not just the jobs, it’
s the businesses that are going to be devastated.”
Montford said he is also worried about how changes at the Department of Corrections could negatively affect north
“The Department of Corrections is privatizing some South Florida prisons, and there are bumping privileges – if
someone with senority is laid off in South Florida, they could conceivably bump someone here and take the job, so
there is very definitely a potential negative impact up here, and we have to be vigilant.”
Montford believes that “there is a sincere genuine concern” within the leadership at the various agencies he’s talking
to, and that he thinks there will be some way to delay closing Dozier.
“We had a very ,very frank discussion, I expressed to them my concern, and gave some specific examples of what
effect this quick of a closure would have,” he said. “Somehow, we’ve got to find some relief. This thing is two or three
weeks away as it stands, and it’s going to be bad on a lot of loyal employees who have worked hard for the children
of Dozier. It’s one thing to look at numbers on a sheet, but look in their eyes and see the pain and fear, that’s heart-