Baldwin Commissioners: Other counties must pay fair share for wi - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Baldwin Commissioners: Other counties must pay fair share for wilderness camp

Sheriff's investigators say a female staff member was raped by a 15-year-old male camper on a nature trail at the Baldwin County Residential Wilderness Facility Tuesday, December 22. Sheriff's investigators say a female staff member was raped by a 15-year-old male camper on a nature trail at the Baldwin County Residential Wilderness Facility Tuesday, December 22.
BALDWIN COUNTY, AL (WALA) -

After reconvening from an extensive executive session Tuesday, January 26, about the Baldwin County Residential Wilderness Camp for troubled teens, Baldwin County Commissioners spent more time in public discussion fleshing out the camp's funding issues. 

A major item all commissioners agree needs to be addressed is the lack of funding from other counties who send their juvenile delinquents to the facility. 

At this point, troubled kids from neighboring counties are sent via court orders to the Wilderness Camp in Lottie on the Baldwin County tax payer's dime, according to commissioners, but commissioners decided Tuesday to go into discussions with those neighboring county officials to sign an agreement that would make them pay for their kids up front, and then receive any eligible reimbursements later. Nearly half of the campers at the facility come from other counties. 

This comes after a woman working at the facility was allegedly raped by a teen male camper on a nature trail on campus last month. 

Commissioner Charles Gruber said he was aware of the issue before the alleged rape, but that it had been put on the back burner, until now. He said he wants to make sure Baldwin County is working with its neighboring counties to ensure campers are still able to attend the camp, but he also acknowledges their need to contribute what's fair. 

"I want to make sure we are whole," he explained. "We've been paying for the whole thing, for all these years, and we just can't continue to keep putting our money into it, serving other counties."

The county's attorney, David Conner, will now be negotiating with other counties on a number they'll need to pay up front. He said they'll decide payments based on the total cost per participant bed, multiplied by the number of beds each county typically fills each year.

"It would be $300 a day per bed day," he said. 

Commissioner Chris Elliot wants to see those negotiations happen this week.

"I'm ready to move on that right now," said Elliott. 

But, Elliott said even if other counties help offset the cost that Baldwin County taxpayers are paying into the facility, he still has several other concerns with the camp.

"One is the safety and security, not only of our personnel, but of the children, that are at that camp, we also have the role of government question that we need to answer, and that is, is this something we should be doing," said Elliott. "Then we have to have a liability question, about the question of liability, and whether or not, even with all this cost allocated properly, and all of these measures in place, what kind of liability is still out there for the Baldwin County taxpayer?"

However, Gruber said its worth it. 

"I get letters from the children that it's helped, you take a child that was troubled and you turn their life completely around, they all of a sudden become a productive citizen, they go off, making the honor roll, they get a job afterwards, they turn out to be real good people, if we hadn't have had this, they would have never made (it to) that point," said Gruber. 

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