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Possible Balm prison has residents battling

Wednesday's surprise decision by county commissioners to reconsider a prison site in Balm has south Hillsborough County residents fuming and banding together to fight.

About 30 organizers met Thursday night. At that meeting, they elected a representative, came up with petitions and handed out several thousand fliers.

"We made up our minds last night we don't want no damn prison in south Hillsborough County," said Peter Allen, a south Hillsborough resident and candidate for the District 4 County Commission seat.

A second meeting is planned for 8:30 a.m. today at the McDonald's in Riverview, at 9870 U.S. 301.

Residents are upset that Balm is being considered at all and about the on-again/off-again way commissioners have handled the issue. Commissioners voted Tuesday to take Balm off the list of potential sites, then reversed their decision the next day.

The Balm site is southeast of U.S. 301 and County Road 672.

This weekend, residents will circulate a petition against the prison site in Gibsonton, Riverview, Apollo Beach, Wimauma, Ruskin and Sun City Center, said group representative Sharon Roberts.

"(County commissioners) seem like they have just made up their mind it is going to be in Balm," Roberts said.

Commissioners will reconsider the issue at 3 p.m. Wednesday during their regular meeting.

_ BOB WHITBY

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