BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE NATE BELL –
The Arkansas Board of Corrections announced late last month that it is soliciting proposals from communities interested in hosting a proposed, new 1,000-bed state prison. The board voted to set a late October proposal deadline in hopes of presenting a plan during next January’s legislative session. The proposed facility is projected to have a construction cost of approximately $100 million.
Site requirements are at least 400 acres of suitable land, proximity to an airport and a location near a higher-educational institution. The facility is being planned to be maximum security and would include 200 single cell isolation units. 250 corrections officers and other staff would be required to operate the facility with starting salaries of approximately $35,000. The economic impact of millions of dollars in new earned income would lead to the creation of additional new jobs in the community. The community ultimately selected for the new prison will also see substantial job creation in existing and new local businesses that provide services and support to construct and operate the facility.
I will be hosting a town hall meeting on August 15th in the lecture hall at Rich Mountain Community College in Mena to discuss the proposed project and to determine whether there should be a local effort to attract the new facility. The meeting will begin at 6:30 PM. I’m not proposing anything until I hear from the local community, but I am offering my assistance in making information about the project available to interested parties. I’m not at all interested in pursuing an unwanted project but it’s never wise to summarily reject hundreds of new jobs and the economic benefits that come with them without at least studying the situation and carefully considering the possibilities. I will actively assist if local residents and officials decide to recruit the project.
I’m asking everyone who is interested in learning more about the project or sharing your opinions to please attend this important meeting. Personal invitations are being extended to the Mayor of Mena, County Judge, Polk County Quorum Court and the members of the Mena City Council. Officials from the Department of Corrections will be present.
There is a positive and a negative to every opportunity and I want to make sure that any decision about pursuing (or not pursuing) this project is made with full transparency and the input of local citizens.
Thanks for the opportunity to represent you in Little Rock!