No action taken on offer by MTC to build prison

KINGMAN - The Mohave County Board of Supervisors decided at its meeting Monday to take no action on an offer to partner with Management and Training Corporation to build a federal prison in the county.

During the Board's March 19 meeting, MTC approached the Board with three options on building a federal prison in the county.

The first two options included increasing the size of the proposed new county jail.

The last option had the prison being built somewhere else in the county.

County Manager Ron Walker explained to the Board that he had spoken to the county's Department of Procurement and the Legal Department about the unsolicited bid the county had received from MTC. Both departments told him that the county could find itself in either a criminal or civil lawsuit if it accepted the offer to add on to the new jail without going through the entire state procurement process.

The state procurement process requires the county to make available to every contractor the option of bidding on the project.

The only way the county could get around the bidding process was if MTC had a unique service that no other corporation in the world could offer the county.

Walker said the third option of partnering to build a prison that would only house federal inmates was still an option, but he called it premature. The federal government has not yet started the bidding process on the project and it is unclear which of the many private prison companies would win the bid, he said.

Walker said it would be better if the county waited to see who the winner of the federal project would be than to lock in a contract with one corporation now.

Also, the federal government's contract includes the stipulation that the prison must be built within 75 miles of Las Vegas. The best area in Mohave County within 75 miles of Vegas is the White Hills area, he said.

"I think at this point we are unable to be able to follow up on any further discussion on this issue," Walker said.

Two Mohave County residents raised objections to the proposed prison. One man asked what types of federal inmates would be housed at the prison. He also questioned MTC's motives for bringing a new prison into the county.

"It's a used car sales pitch, I think," he said.

Supervisor Buster Johnson said the prison would be a temporary holding area for federal prisoners before they are formally sentenced. No prisoners from the facility would be released into local communities.

Johnson said MTC was looking at Mohave County because of its proximity to the federal courthouse in Las Vegas and the affordability of land in the county.

"So we got cheap dirt?" the man asked.

Johnson said there could be a number of benefits to the county if the county signed a contract with the federal government and then subcontracted the operation of the prison out.

A Golden Valley resident raised questions about the amount of water the prison would use.

Supervisor Tom Sockwell said, "I really feel that Mohave County should just be a little bit careful in entering into contracts with private industry. Looks like we've done it twice. Looks like twice we've come up with egg on our face. I think we should be very, very careful."

Johnson said he agreed with Walker on the first two options proposed by MTC but felt that the third option still needed to be looked at as a possibility.

He said the prison could offer the area good jobs and a new well system. The county could collect a per diem charge for each inmate and could own the facility in the end without any cost to the taxpayer for construction.

It was important to sign a contract now, Johnson said, because if they didn't, then whoever won the bid would have no contractual obligation to the county, and the county would lose out on many of the benefits.

Walker said he saw no purpose in entering into a contract with a private prison company now. It would be better to wait and see which company won the federal bid and see if that company was interested in building in Mohave County. The Board took no action.