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NH council asked to extend prisons study deadline

Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- State officials want the New Hampshire Executive Council to approve yet another extension of a contract with a consulting firm hired to weigh various proposals to build and operate a new prison in the state, but the request does not include paying the company more money.

The council in July approved spending about $171,000 to hire consultant MGT of America, based in Tallahassee, Fla.

The consultant's recommendations were due in late September, but the firm has not yet completed its report because of missing data from the state.

Officials at the state Department of Administrative Services accept blame for most of the delay, saying they had to provide MGT with costs figures that are not readily available because of the way state agencies budget. Illness of a key staff member also was cited in the request for an extension.

Administrative Services officials want to extend the contract through April but are adamant they will not pay MGT more than the contracted price.

The Executive Council meets Wednesday.

The council on Dec. 5 approved an extension of the contract through February.

Michael Connor, director of plant and property management for the Department of Administrative Services, said the office will supply MGT with cost figures organized in a way the firm can use them to evaluate the various proposals.

"They've been waiting for us for about four months now," Connor said. "We have costs lumped together. Now we're breaking them down into variable and fixed."

The state last year sought proposals from contractors for three projects — one to build and operate a men's prison, one for a women's prison and one for a "hybrid" prison that would house male and female inmates on one campus.

In April, the state received four proposals each for the men's and hybrid prisons and none for a women's prison.

Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon said the proposals for the projects received filled 60 boxes, and that it would be MGT's job to vet the proposals and credentials of the companies that submitted them.

MGT also must analyze whether privatizing some or all of the prisons would be in the state's best interests. The privatization issue has generated much controversy and a bill this year to ban the use of private prisons except in limited, emergency circumstances.

Connor said Administrative Services has rebuffed requests from MGT for more money, adding the company did not specify an amount. The company has received partial payment of the $171,000 tab to date.

Gov. Maggie Hassan's budget includes $38 million to build a women's prison. New Hampshire Legal Assistance last year filed a lawsuit on behalf of four female inmates alleging educational, rehabilitation, recreation and living conditions fall far short of what is provided to male prisoners in New Hampshire.

Lawyers for the women prisoners have asked the court for class-action status so that any remedies apply to all female prisoners.