THE BUSINESS PRESS/CALIFORNIA March 25, 2002, Monday SECTION: Pg. 3
LENGTH: 439 words
HEADLINE: Prison agency slams door on Barstow facility: City leaders expected project to be awarded this summer
BYLINE: Joseph Ascenzi; The Business Press/California
� Barstow officials said they took a major economic hit when the U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced March 18 it was abandoning plans for a privately owned and operated minimum security prison in the city.
Bureau officials, who had planned to build a similar facility in Arizona, cited a reduction in the crime rate among non-U.S. citizens.
Mayor Lawrence E. Dale and Economic Development Coordinator Ron Rector said the High Desert community lobbied aggressively for the facility, which would have housed about 1,500 inmates, none of them United States citizens, who have been convicted of crimes. Though not selected as the official site, Barstow was at the top of a short list of cities being considered for the facility, which would have been built by either Wackenhutt Corrections Corp. or Cornell Companies, Inc., which were both bidding on the project, Rector said.
Barstow officials had expected the city's selection to be made official this July.
"I was shell-shocked," Rector said of the bureau's decision, which he said ended about five years of negotiations between the bureau and the city. "It was a complete surprise."
Like other private prisons in the Victor Valley, the Barstow facility would have brought 250 to 300 jobs and pumped money into a region that has had scant economic growth during the past three to five years, Dale said.
"It would have given us a financial boost that we really need," Dale said. "We were looking at bringing 250 jobs to the city. The people who would have worked there would have used our stores, used our filling stations. It's hard to put a figure on something like that, but it would have been a lot [of money in the economy]."
Plans called for the minimum-security facility to be build on a vacant site on Lenwood Road near Main Street to house non-violent inmates serving the end of their sentences before returning to their native countries.
Rector didn't try to hide his, or the city's disappointment at not landing the federal prison.
The prison's fiscal impact on Barstow and its surrounding communities would have been significant, Rector said. Construction of the facility would have pumped $ 45 million to $ 70 million into the local economy, and operating the facility would have put about $ 12 million a year into local coffers, Rector said.
"Federal prisons pay union wages," he said.
The fiscal impact of the prison ultimately would have depended on the size of the facility, how much subcontracting would have gone to local firms and how much building material would have been bought in Barstow, Rector said.