Community volunteers who have been working for more than two years to get a federal prison built in Letcher County came another step to reaching their goal last week when U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers announced that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has awarded a contract to an international engineering firm to perform a site selection study here.
"The perseverance and dedication of the Letcher County Planning Commission is paying off," Rogers said, referring to the volunteer group chaired by Rev. Elwood Cornett of Blackey. "The Commission rallied this community around a common goal of bringing a federal prison here. Our federal correctional facilities are bursting at the seams, and this is an important step in allowing the prison bureau to identify sites that address engineering requirements necessary to operate a firstrate prison."
The contract recipient, Louis Berger Group, Inc., is an international engineering firm with over 55 years of experience in managing large scale construction projects. The site selection process will analyze up to six sites within Letcher County. A detailed report, due this fall, will address technical considerations including topography, subsurface conditions, utilities, community services, cultural resources, property rights ownership, and hazardous materials contamination.
In 2006, Rogers secured an initial $5 million in Congress that has enabled the federal prison bureau to initiate the site planning and selec tion process and related environmental assessments for a possible Letcher County location. Upon completion of the site selection study that identifies potential sites for future development, the bureau can then proceed with a full-scale environmental impact statement on a new correctional facility.
Rogers, through his role on the Appropriations Committee, has already helped get three federal prisons built in southern and eastern Kentucky – in Clay, Martin and McCreary counties. These facilities support over 900 high-paying jobs, Rogers said.
A widely-publicized report earlier this year shows state and federal prisons seeing dramatic inmate population growth in 2007.