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Western Colorado prison to remain open

John Gardner
jgardner@postindependent.com
Rifle, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” Republican Sen. Al White confirmed Friday that the Joint Budget Committee, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and the Colorado Department of Corrections have reached a tentative agreement that will allow the Rifle Correctional Center to remain open.

White said in a telephone interview Friday, that he met with Gov. Ritter Thursday night, along with colleagues of the Joint Budget Committee, and had a conversation regarding budgetary options that would allow the facility to operate as normal.

“We pretty much have an agreement to keep it open,” said White, who holds the District 8 seat that includes most of Garfield County.



Ritter announced in January the intention to close the 192-bed Rifle Correctional Center in an attempt to reduce the State’s budget shortfall. Closing the facility was expected to save $600,000 a year while an estimated sale of the facility was determined to receive more than $5 million.

However, White, who is a member of the Joint Budget Committee, has always opposed the closure and felt that there could be a way to keep it open.



“I just pointed out how important it was to keep it open and options in the budget where we could maintain the facility and balance the budget at the same time,” White said. “It’s something that I felt we could always accomplish.”

One way to make up the shortfall while keeping the prison open was to reduce the shift-differential payment, between employees who work during the day compared to night shift for DOC employees, White said. White said none of the 57 jobs at the Rifle facilty would be lost.

In late January around three hundred people came to a public meeting in Rifle to show and voice their support for the Rifle facility. Department of Corrections executive director Ari Zavaras said the turnout would be taken into consideration as a final decision on the closure was made.



“I am excited by the mutual efforts put forth by the Governor’s Office, the members of the Joint Budget Committee, and the Department,” Zavaras said Friday. “The outcome allows for the continued operation of the Rifle Correctional Center without compromising the safe and secure operation of our prisons.”

The large turnout at the Rifle meeting gave supporters the chance to show how valuable the facility is to the local community.

Inmates from the Rifle facility have provided labor and savings for agencies like the Rifle Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, Rifle Senior Center and Grand River Hospital.

A firefighting team also operates out of the Rifle center and the Garfield County uses the kitchen services of the RCC to provide meals for its Community Corrections facility off Airport Road in Rifle.

White said that some unresolved issues from the DOC have yet to be addressed but that the Joint Budget Committee will do so soon.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114 jgardner@postindependent.com


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