MTC seeks prison partner

Board hears offer from company seeking federal government contract

KINGMAN - During its meeting Monday, The Board of Supervisors heard an offer to partner with Management Training Corporation to build a federal prison in Mohave County. The Board decided to have county staff study the matter and report back to the board during its first meeting in April.

Mike Murphy, vice president of business development for MTC, brought the offer to the Board. MTC and other private prison operators are bidding on a 20-year federal government contract to house Las Vegas area prisoners.

Murphy said the company has identified a spot in Las Vegas and currently has room to expand its Golden Valley facility. He offered the county three options.

The first option was to partner with MTC and build a 2,000- to 2,500-bed jail instead of the proposed 850-bed jail for the county. One thousand of the beds would be reserved for federal prisoners.

The second option would have the county and MTC partner to build a facility somewhere else in the county.

The third option would have the county partnering with MTC to expand its existing facility in Golden Valley.

In all three options, MTC would run the federal side of the jail and pay the county around $1 to $2 a head for the federal prisoners in lieu of property taxes. The Sheriff's Office would run the county side.

"We felt it prudent to let the county know of the partnering opportunity.

"We're not trying to force anything," Murphy said.

We're not doing anything other than making you aware of opportunities," Murphy said.

He said MTC was aware there were other competitors for the federal contract that may be looking at the Kingman area. "If there's interest by the county, we would be keen to go to Washington with you to partner. MTC thinks that some of the economic development opportunities that are available with this type of project are significant," he said.

MTC currently has a staff of 250 at its Golden Valley facility. It pays $7 million in payroll and pays property and occupancy taxes to the county, he said. A 1,000-bed jail would provide a significant amount of jobs during construction and after completion.

"The clock is ticking. The federal RFP (request for proposal) is due April 30 for potential sites to be submitted. As we move toward that deadline, we're looking to see if there's any interest. If the county says 'we're not interested,' then at least we think we've done our job at making the county aware of significant opportunities to develop more jobs, develop more tax base and potentially have a jail in 20 years that, once the debt is retired, a 1,000-bed jail that you would own," Murphy said.

Murphy told the Board that the prison would not hold sentenced prisoners - it would be used to hold prisoners while they were awaiting trial. The average stay would be 30 to 45 days.

Supervisor Buster Johnson said it wouldn't take long at $1 to $2 a day per prisoner to recoup the cost of the facility. And the county would get the extra room in the jail for expansion after 20 years. Or, if the county went with the option of helping expand the Golden Valley facility, the additional infrastructure would aid that area.

Board Chairman Pete Byers asked why not just build something across the state border or in the White Hills area. It would cut down on transportation time for prisoners, he suggested.

Murphy said MTC was open to anything. The closer to Las Vegas, the better, he said.

County Manager Ron Walker asked if MTC had an agreement with one of the contractors that was bidding on the new jail project.

Murphy said they had been approached by one of the contractors to provide ancillary services for the new jail. Walker said other contractors wanting to bid on the county jail might see MTC's offers as an end run around the system. He also said the county would still reap some of the benefits if someone wanted to build a federal prison in the county.