Rifle Officials, Residents Fight Back Against Proposed Prison Closure

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

As part of his plan to cut roughly $1 billion from the state's budget, Governor Bill Ritter announced he wants to close the correctional facility in Rifle. But Tuesday night, city officials and residents teamed up to send a message to state leaders that closing the prison is a bad idea.

Nearly 300 people attended a town hall meeting the Colorado Department of Corrections held in Rifle Tuesday night to express their concerns.

City officials say the most devastating effect of closing the facility would be the loss of 57 jobs, but there would be other consequences. They say the facility costs about $4.2 million to operate -- money being pumped into their local economy.

They also say that inmate work crews help with a lot of maintenance work on city parks and facilities -- if the correctional facility is shut down, the city would have to spend an additional $100,000 a year to keep up.

In addition, they say Garfield County contracts with the facility to prepare meals for inmates in the county jail. If the facility was closed, they say the county would have to pay for a new facility to prepare the food and hire additional workforce to make it.

"The Governor and the Legislature are working to create jobs this year throughout the state," said Mike Braaten, Government Affairs and Energy Manager for the City of Rifle. "Here with this proposal they are actually eliminating jobs and hurting our community. We hope that they look at that and realize that and possibly look elsewhere for those budget savings."

Department of Corrections officials say compared to other minimum security prisons across the state, the Rifle facility is significantly more expensive to operate.

The Rifle City Council and the Garfield County Commissioners have sent a joint letter to the Governor's office asking him to reconsider his proposal.

State Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and State Senator Al White said Tuesday that they will fight to keep the facility open.

THE CITY OF RIFLE AND THE GARFIELD COUNTY COMMISSIONERS HAVE SENT A LETTER TO GOVERNOR RITTER ASKING HIM TO RECONSIDER HIS PROPOSAL...
TODAY, WESTERN SLOPE STATE SENATORS JOSH PENRY AND AL WHITE SAID THEY WOULD FIGHT TO KEEP THE FACILITY OPEN...


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