New prison could boost Comanche County economy

Comanche County_On Monday, Comanche County residents will voice their opinions on whether to build a new GEO Prison.  Commissioner Ron Kirby brought the proposal up for a vote at the commissioners' meeting on July 14, but neither of the other commissioners wanted to approve it because they had concerns about the project.  The new prison would house 1,500 inmates - and could positively impact the area's economy.

Last week, the GEO Group moved the proposed site from the lot between 45th and 60th Streets to a lot near Flowermound Road.  The decision squashed most concerns.  "The fact is that most of the issues have been answered," said Comanche County Commissioner Ron Kirby.  At the new location, Geo would utilize the current Flowermound Road for entry to the prison, which removes any costs for the county to pave it.  Additionally, the new facility could use the current facility's water line - one less thing to be concerned about.  "GEO has bent over backwards to try to meet every concern that was raised during the meeting," Kirby said.

Structural concerns aside - tax dollars pouring into the county would be enormous.  "Last year the current facility paid approximately $800,000 in ad valorom taxes," Kirby said.  "Of course, most of that went to schools."  However, the new facility would divide taxes equally between Geronimo and Lawton schools, with the remainder of the money spread between other county departments.

It isn't only the ad valorem taxes that will benefit the county, though.  "When they need to buy things for the prison, they've bought locally," said Kirby.  "So, again, that just puts more money right back into the community' and you have that multiplier effect."  On top of that, construction of the prison would add construction jobs to area residents.  "So you have all those construction wages being paid here," he said.  "You know they're going to buy a lot of their materials here in the local community - 2 - 4 million dollars annual in purchases such as food and supplies."

The citizens of Comanche County will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposal at a public hearing on Monday, July 28.  If you are interested in attending the meeting, it will begin 15 minutes after the County Commissioners' Meeting ends in Judge McCall's courtroom on the 4th floor of the Comanche County Courthouse.  Commissioner Kirby says the proposal needs to be acted upon quickly - GEO has had offers from both Enid and Stroud to house the facility in their communities.

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