Dozier gym

This gymnasium on the south campus of the old Dozier School for Boys, which is the centerpiece of a new economic development concept known as Endeavor, could be a showpiece in that project.

Work is progressing in the development of a request for proposals that would seek entities to manage the potential autism support program that is being planned as a showpiece of the Endeavor property in Jackson County.

Last week, Jackson County Commissioners authorized staff to prepare the document, which requires a great deal of research into the field, says county Purchasing Agent Judy Austin, in order to produce an adequate request that will lay out the requirements for such a management team.

Local government envisions a center that will serve primarily to support people on the autism spectrum who are aging out of high school and need further preparation to enter their adult lives as independent individuals armed with what they need to succeed in the world.

Completing and posting that RFP for program managers will be one of the biggest next steps in the ongoing development of Endeavor, which was previously the home of the old Dozier School for Boys.

The state of Florida ultimately turned that property over to Jackson County a few years after the school closed, but is back with a right-of-way agreement from the county giving the state the right to have a small area of the land surveyed by a college professor and her team. Their goal is to determine whether some ground anomalies found there several months ago may contain human remains. That work started this week, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle from the University of South Florida. That’s the same professor who previously led her students in the examination of Boot Hill Cemetery and a small surrounding area at Dozier over the course of several months, in attempts to learn more about the unmarked graves there. After that project, some of the remains were re-interred at Boot Hill and others were buried in a Leon County cemetery.

The anomalies now being examined were discovered by a contractor working in a different section of Dozier as part of an environmental clean-up project.

The new search area is in a different area of the Dozier grounds. See more on that project in a separate story.

As that research progresses, work on other aspects shaping the future of Endeavor continues undisrupted by that process.

For instance, Jackson County Commission Chairman Clint Pate has now signed off on the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding that serves as a general guideline for a pending development in the 1,248-acre complex that is still code-named “Blue Sky,” as the county and the company involved maintain the nondisclosures that have the company’s name and its specific manufacturing and distribution mission a secret so far. The company is expected to locate on Endeavor property near Mashburn Road.

The county had tentatively approved the agreement last Tuesday on the condition that the document more clearly state the expected salary range for potential workers, having been concerned that the average salary listed included managerial salaries that would typically be higher than that for the rank-and-file. They wanted to a see an average expectation minus those jobs. The newest version of the MOU signed by Pate, as it did in the old version, lists Blue Sky’s expected wage range as an intention, rather than as a requirement and further details the salary expectations , in the following statement: “Blue Sky intends to pay an average hourly wage of $18.94 (an hour), plus $4.13 (per hour) in benefits for a total of $23.07 (per hour), which includes full benefits which is 134 percent of the Jackson County average wage rate,” the document states. “’The starting salaries will range from $14 to $35 for non-management personnel, depending on requirements of the position. The median projected starting salary is $16,” it concludes.

The only other change in the new version compared to the last version is a re-numbering of the portion of the document listing Blue Sky’s intentions. It leaves an item numbered “8” as an otherwise blank spot in the MOU, and shifts the paragraphs formerly numbered 8 and 9 to make them items 9 and 10,instead.

With the county chairman’s signature now secured, the new version is going back to the city of Marianna for potential approval with the changes listed above, as the city had already approved the previous version of the non-binding document.

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