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County urged to take position on private jail

delays action

June 20, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

The county Board of Supervisors was urged Tuesday to adopt a formal position in favor of a privately run detention center for illegal aliens.

The project would be adjacent to the county jail, south of El Centro, on land owned by Alan Brinkman and his wife. Hank Felchlin of Albert H. Smith Real Estate of Brawley said he's handing the sale of the land for the project.

"It's something we don't want to pass up on," Felchlin said, adding construction costs are estimated at $50-$60 million and from 300 to 350 jobs paying $18-$19 per hour would result. He said the project could be built on 40 acres but that 160 acres have been set aside for it.

The project was the subject of a public presentation at Southwest High School last October by representatives of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, the Sarasota, Fla.-based Correctional Services Corp., the East Orange, N.J.-based Louis Berger Group Inc., which is under contract to provide various technical services to any agency within the U.S. government.


Felchlin said he does not work for CSC but does some of the local leg work for the company.

A June 15 letter from CSC to the county says the 1,500-bed facility would house low-risk criminal aliens. Besides the construction and jobs benefits, the letter says the facility would likely result in $60-$70 million in new money to the area, that employees would receive health benefits, a 401(k) plan and receive tuition reimbursement, among other benefits.

At the time of the presentation at Southwest High it was reported that the federal government was considering 19 sites for such a facility, including in Arizona. It was reported that a draft environmental impact statement was being developed.

The Board of Supervisors briefly discussed the issue in closed session as a potential litigation item. The board then directed staff to write "an appropriate resolution" stating the board's general support of economic development in the county.

The board reportedly had previously adopted a resolution in June 2000, in support of a new federal prison but the resolution did not extend to those run privately.

Representatives of CSC could not be reached for comment.

In other business, the board:

· directed staff to issue a notice of intent to sell a 1996 Ford E-350 15-passenger van to the city of Westmorland's Police Activities League for $1. The van was scheduled to be auctioned recently and has an appraised value of $8,000, which if auctioned would have gone toward the cost of a replacement vehicle.

· approved $1.49 million in funding with the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program to provide certain CalWORKs welfare-to-work services. The amount is $381,173 more than last year's amount.

· authorized the Sheriff's Office to hire a limited term crime prevention coordinator to work with the Sheriff's Activities League in Heber, Ocotillo, Niland and Indian tribal areas at a cost of $52,000.

· approved a federally funded $290,000 wetlands inventory project with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The board also received an update on the various wetlands and aeration projects associated with the cleanup of the New River.

· approved a $67,906 agreement between the county Department of Social Services and the Imperial County Office of Education to continue funding a school nurse for pregnant minors.

Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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