Limestone County: Feds delay detention center decision

(Photo by John Carroll)
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LIMESTONE COUNTY (January 25, 2016) Limestone County officials are looking for alternative ways to reopen the county’s 1,000-bed private prison, which has been closed since the summer of 2013.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons was expected to make a final decision on re-awarding a contract to reopen the center and restore the 250 jobs that were lost in July of 2013.

"We were told that we have an excellent opportunity for another contract with the Bureau of Prisons based on the history of our facility...but they have delayed the decision now till October,” Limestone County Judge Daniel Burkeen said Monday.

But Burkeen still believes the county still has a good chance,

"So we're just kind of at the mercy of the federal government as they make that award,” he said.

Burkeen said the county is talking to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to see if hundreds of newly detained immigrants can be housed in the large complex.

"That could happen any day, but we'd need them to stay more than just a few months and it would take some time to bring the facility up to standard,” he said.

Willy Johnson who owns and operates Mary's Breakfast and Burgers and is running for County Commissioner says he's lost a lot of business since the prison shut down, and hopes the county can find some way to reopen the prison,

"I used to have a whole table of correctional officers here at 6 a.m. every day and now there's nothing.... The whole town has suffered...it’s not just us, it's everybody."

The Limestone County Detention Center was built by the county 30 years ago and a private contractor ran the facility, carrying out the daily operations and hiring all the employees.

If the county wins the BOP contract, Management and Training Corporation (MTC) has an agreement with the county to reopen and operate the facility.