(PRICHARD, Ala.) - Prichard’s embattled boot camp for troubled teens was threatened with eviction at city council Thursday night.
“[Restoration Youth Academy] owes the city and needs to pay up,” Councilwoman Earlene Martin-Harris said. “It was my recommendation that we begin the eviction process right now.”
After it was revealed the boot camp was operating for two years without paying rent, the city demanded RYA founder Pastor John Young get an appraisal of the property, obtain a business license, and pay $27,000 in back rent. As of Thursday meeting, Young still owed $19,000.
“All I’m asking for is a little mercy, five months [to pay],” Young pleaded to council members.
Young said he could pay the $19,000 immediately, but he would not be able to afford payroll and feed the teens. The rest of the city council rejected Martin-Harris’ motion to start the eviction process and stood behind RYA.
“Are we hard hearted that we won’t give these kids the opportunity to be successful?” Council President Herman Towner said. “It’s going to be another vacant building. We’re going to pass up on money, and that don’t make any sense.”
Under the deal brokered at the meeting, RYA must pay back rent in full after five months. In addition, the boot camp must also pay $1,500 in current rent each month.
RYA has been plagued by allegations of abuse, though the district attorney has said there is no credible evidence supporting the claims. It was also revealed the head drill instructor, William Knott, came from Bethel Boys Academy in Mississippi, which shut down following a major class action lawsuit alleging serious abuse. The lawsuit alleged Knott “planned, orchestrated, and directed the abuses”.
Pastor Young and some parents interviewed by Local 15 have insisted the allegations at RYA are false, and that the camp has made a huge, positive impact on their children’s lives.
"I have kids that were dying on the streets and came here for an opportunity to live," Young said.