Proposal for Geo prison expansion shot down; public hearing to be held

Lawton_Monday morning Comanche County Commissioners met and voted on a new Geo Correction Facility to house 1,500 inmates.  What was expected to be a mere formality for approval, however, was shot down by a 2-1 vote.  Commissioner Ron Kirby was its only supporter. Now, commissioners plan to hold a public hearing on the matter.

The commissioners who voted against expanding the correctional facility aren't entirely against building the facility since they know it will bring jobs and tax dollars to the area.  However, there are some things to consider.  It seems that paving Tinney Road, providing funding to the Flowermound Fire Department, and concerns of citizens living in the area are causing controversy.

Russell Sullivan lives just across the street from the land proposed for the prison's expansion.  "I think we need to have some discussion myself, I have some concerns in my area," said Sullivan.  Sullivan's concern is that some citizens of Comanche County say that prisons will give the area a negative image.  Although he was informed that the county and Geo both expect property values will not decrease - he didn't seem to buy it.  "I don't believe that," he said.  "Whose gonna buy my house right across from a prison, you know?  "I'm sure he [the warden] doesn't even want to live next to it."

Flowermound Fire Department Chief Josh Sullivan says that extra funding for their service hasn't been provided.  "We haven't received any money from them just because the city annexed them so that they could be under city fire protection," he said.  Chief Sullivan says they will still be required to respond to traffic accidents in the area, and with another facility, more employees will increase traffic.

The third concern is with regard to paving the road that would lead up to the new facility.  "Who would pay for that, who would do that?" asked Chief Sullivan.  "We don't have the money in our budget to build anything that would be adequate to serve you guys."  But, Geo says it is willing to work with the county.

Building the facility has a lot of benefits: creation of construction jobs while building, 300 new, permanent jobs in Comanche County with an estimated payroll of over $12 million.  Additionally the prison would increase tax revenue.

Geo has a perfect track-record at its current facility no prisoner has escaped in 10 years.  The county says it will ask the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) for assistance in paving Tinney Road, but with the increase in cost of asphalt and diesel, the county is unsure what that cost would be.  A public hearing will be held during the regular county commissioner's meeting on Monday, July 28, at 9 a.m.

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