Saturday, April 28, 2012

Frustrated, Embarrassed Town Votes To Unload Title To Empty Jail Onto Stiffed Bondholders After Nationwide Search For Prisoner/Occupants Yields Squat; Desperate Request To House Guantanamo Terror Suspects Nixed

In Hardin, Montana, the Great Falls Tribune reports:

  • Economic development officials in Hardin voted Tuesday to relinquish control of a $27 million jail that was built with the promise of economic development, but brought only frustration and embarrassment to the southeastern Montana town in the five years since it was built. The board of Hardin's Two Rivers Authority voted unanimously to transfer the title to the 464-bed jail to the bondholders who financed the project. The bondholders still must approve the transfer.
  • Two Rivers chairman Bill Joseph said the board made the decision in an effort to get the jail open. "If we can give them back the title and someone can come in here and buy it, and this will help get it open faster, then we are all for it," Joseph said. Two Rivers is hoping the transfer will take a month or less, said executive director Jeffrey McDowell.
  • McDowell said bondholders "ran out of patience" with the city's efforts to put the jail to use and wanted to assume control over the 92,000-square-foot jail on 40 acres rather than go through the foreclosure process. The jail was built at a time when state and local governments didn't need additional jail space.
  • After looking for prisoners from Vermont to Alaska, local officials became so desperate to put the jail to use they nearly turned it over to a convicted con artist who promised to turn it into a military training camp. They also sought unsuccessfully to house terrorism suspects being held by the military at Guantanamo Bay.
  • The privately operated facility defaulted on its bond in 2008, forcing authorities to dip into the jail's construction loan to meet its debt payments. The last of those payments was made in late 2008, McDowell said.

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