As part of an ongoing effort for reforms at the Residential Wilderness Camp for court-referred youth in Lottie, the Baldwin County Commission Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to abolish 15 paid positions, which will eliminate more than $330,356 in salaries from the camp’s payroll.
The commission’s plan will eliminate six residential advisor technicians, two residential advisors, one part-time residential advisor technician, one therapist and one recreation and volunteer coordinator equal to $330,356 in salaries. According to Commissioner Chris Elliott, most of the eliminated positions are currently vacant and three or four others are filled by employees who are still in their probationary period.
An additional four future vacated positions will be eliminated through attrition, with an undetermined salary reduction.
“These eliminations by attrition may occur by retirement, or by separation, or by some kind of disciplinary action, we did not specify,” Baldwin County Attorney David Conner said. “But when, over time, some of these positions do come open, we intend to abolish those positions.”
The move will leave the camp with 46 paid staff. Before the cuts were approved, the camp employed 61 people with more than $2.1 million in salaries.
According to Conner, in the event a supervisor or director resigns, camp leadership would have to decide whether that position should be filled.
“I think they would have to determine at that time about which positions they need to retain and which ones would be subject to abolition,” he said.
The Residential Wilderness Program, also known as Camp Horizon, came under fire from commissioners following an alleged sexual assault there in December, when authorities say a teenage camper allegedly raped a camp employee.
Commissioners have questioned the $5 million annual operations cost at the camp, which served 170 court-ordered juveniles last year. Of those 170 campers, less than half were from Baldwin County, while juveniles from at least nine other Alabama counties — some as far away as Hale and Pickens counties in West Alabama — have been housed at the camp over the years. The County Commission has never been reimbursed for the cost of housing out-of-county juveniles there.