A sad day: Detention center to open in Pahrump Oct. 1

How sad, a society that has its hopes on a prison for an economic stimulus. Another prison town is born. Prisons cost money and lives. We hope the people who need jobs will find good, worthwhile work elsewhere, and not in a prison setting. Do we really need a prison for our jobs? Wake up, Nevada.

Monday, September 13, 2010
Detention center to open in Pahrump Oct. 1
Business owners hope facility can boost economy
Las Vegas Business Press

PAHRUMP — Business owners hope they have found a stimulus for the town’s battered economy behind barbed wire.

On Oct. 1, the Nevada Southern Detention Center is scheduled to be ready to take its first inmates, mainly defendants awaiting federal trial in Las Vegas. Developer and operator Corrections Corp. of America has nearly finished hiring the full staff of 234 and has worked to entrench a friendly image by staging job fairs and chaperoning tours for chamber of commerce members.

“I think it will help,” said Tim Hafen of Hafen & Hafen Realty. “The people that are going to work there are going to need to find houses. The housing market we’re in can use anybody.”

Corrections Corp. managers push several numbers front and center:

• Nearly half of those hired already live in Pahrump

• Only two out of a sample group of 30 will commute from Las Vegas; for the 28 others, the company estimates their annual spending at about $600,000

• As a for-profit entity, it will pay $810,000 a year in property taxes

“With all the new jobs, I think it gives a little ray of hope to businesses to hang on for a while,” town manager William Kohbarger said.

The town’s $105,000 share of the taxes could mean the difference between maintaining the town’s current work force or instituting layoffs, he said. This year, the town had to cut $564,000 in spending to balance its $4.6 million budget.

Others, however, have yet to see much help on the horizon. About a month ago, Mary Ann Wiberg, owner of Pahrump Valley Roasters, said she received a call from Corrections Corp. asking her for price quotes. She said she couldn’t give any because the company representative did not specify what he wanted, although he promised to call her back.

“Nobody ever got back to me,” said Wiberg, who sells roasted coffee beans. “For me, it’s a wait-and-see thing. I haven’t heard a whole lot about what’s going on there.”

Norma Jean Opatik, who owns Action Realty, thinks it will take at least a year to see whether the detention center — many locals quickly correct people who call it a prison — will affect the economy. For example, she cannot calculate whether the housing occupied by employees will offset the vacancies created by people who moved out because of the facility.

“It’s hard to say what will happen at this stage,” Opatik said. “If, in fact, it does create jobs, it would help because there is no industry here.”

Michelle Phillips, a independent website designer, said she had not heard of any locals getting jobs at the detention center despite Corrections Corp.’s numbers.

“It’s not going to help with the economy any because the people they are hiring are from California,” she said. “The only thing it’s going to bring is unsavory characters.”

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