IMPERIAL — What could be the first female-specific detention facility in Imperial County got the backing from the City Council on Thursday, as private developers hope to build a complex with as many as 800 beds near the Calexico East Port of Entry.
If built, Women’s Detention Center of Ca. Alpha Inc. could work for the U.S. Marshal Service, responsible for the confinement, care and transportation of federal prisoners during court procedures.
This is the second private detention facility presented to local municipalities this year, with both receiving their respective council’s support.
In January, the city of Holtville accepted the opportunity to enter into a lease and derive revenues from a similar project.
“I think the concept is that the city has familiarity with the Intergovernmental Service Agreement process,” said City Manager Marlene Best when asked why Imperial was approached instead of Calexico.
“We have shown an interest in developing job creation, even though it may not be in our city — that helps the Valley as a whole — and we were willing to do that,” Best added towards the end of the meeting.
Developers did not attend the meeting, but land owners Francis and Eric Rice were present in the special meeting.
Francis Rice said Imperial was approached since it is “forward thinking.”
This Inter-Governmental Service Agreement was needed so the project development could proceed, said Best to the council noting such agreement can only be reached with a municipality.
She also explained that although the city would have to draft the agreement, no financing or liability is involved in this process.
The agreement can also be ended if needed, said Best, who explained the city will be refunded for its time and in the future could even receive some revenue.
It is unclear when construction could start, but a report to the council notes the facility has a price tag of about $56 million.
The report also indicates the facility would have some 200 full-time staffers and create over 1,000 jobs through ancillary employment and construction.
But despite the offered benefits, Councilmember Geoff Dale opposed the project.
“My concern is, how many more prisons do we bring here,” said Dale, adding, “bringing jobs to Imperial County is a wonderful thing, but at what cost.”
Mayor Rick Breland disagreed, and said the project could prompt greater use of the Valley’s federal court house.
The rest of the council sided with Breland, and the matter was approved by a 3-1 vote with Councilwoman Betty Sampson absent.
Mayor Maritza Hurtado said the project is located in county jurisdiction.
Staff Writer Alejandro Dávila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org