Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

April 24, 2013

Time for last-minute push to save CCA


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRIS AGEE



With time running out before state legislators make a decision on its future, local leaders say now is the time to make the case for Corrections Corporation of America's Mineral Wells Pre-Parole Transfer Facility.



Mayor Mike Allen said there are still opportunities for city leaders and residents to speak out in favor of the facility, which provides more than 300 local jobs at full staff.

A Senate budget recently passed proposes closing the facility, though the House presented a proposal handling prison closures differently.

"The House bill does not target any particular facility for closure," said City Manager Lance Howerton. Instead, he said, the budget would provide funds to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to determine which facilities to shut down or streamline.

Allen said he believes TDCJ staff can make such decisions more effectively than state representatives in Austin. Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, and the facility's warden, Cole McKennon, have previously expressed a similar opinion.

A conference committee, consisting of members of the Senate and House, has been appointed to negotiate the final budget. He noted Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who has previously argued for the facility's closure, is serving on the committee.

"Now is the time to make a final push to make sure CCA is not targeted for closure," Allen explained. "Anyone interested in this issue should contact Sen. Estes and Representatives Jim Keffer and Phil King to let them know how important this facility is to Mineral Wells."

City staff is making an effort to contact all members of the committee and other representatives to present the city's case, Allen said.

"The City has offered to meet with each of the members of the conference committee and their staff to provide more detailed information and discuss the issue at hand," he explained, noting he has been in communication with Palo Pinto County Judge David Nicklas and Parker County Judge Mark Riley to encourage their offices to conduct similar outreach.

Locals can get involved by adding their signatures to a letter of support prepared by the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce, Allen said. The Chamber and Bennett’s Office Supply will also fax any individual letters to intended recipients in Austin.

"The best information we have is that the conference committee will likely convene next week," Howerton said. "We're hoping to have the opportunity to get in front of some of these individuals and discuss the positive case for keeping this facility open."

That case includes presenting the real-life consequences associated with losing the CCA facility and the significant revenue it generates locally.

"We want to humanize the issue and let them know it's not just a line item on a state-level budget," he concluded.