Ft. Lyon Prison Receives $5M for Repurposing Project


Gov. Hickenlooper during his visit to Fort Lyon last year.

Governor Hickenlooper’s office reported today that $5 million in settlement funds from mortgage lenders will be spent on developing the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility in Las Animas into a housing and treatment center for homeless military veterans.

The prison closed its doors to prisoners and guards and administrative staff several months ago, leaving only a handful of persons to maintain the prison facilities on a short term basis. When the prison closed, as many as 250 employees were either laid off, or given a choice to relocate elsewhere in other state prison systems. The economic impact was staggering to the immediate Bent County community as well as impacting those prison employees who commuted from Otero and Prowers Counties.

Gene Millbrand, chairman of the Board of Prowers County Commissions, said the news was welcome, adding, “I’m very pleased to hear Governor Hickenlooper recognizes the value of maintaining a strong economy in rural southeast Colorado. These funds will help turnaround some of the recent economic loss for residents in the three immediate counties.” Millbrand acknowledged the efforts of the Bent County Commissioners for their continuing efforts, as well as SEBREA, the six county business oriented organization serving southeast Colorado, to continue to seek other business interests for the former prison. Millbrand added the turnaround will still be a long process before local hiring begins.

The prison had been closed as a cost-saving measure within the Department of Corrections, but it also left one in seven Bent County persons without a job. Bent County also relied heavily on the sale of utilities to the prison, as well as retail supplies and tax revenue.

The State Attorney General’s office has discretion on how the mortgage settlement funds would be used. Colorado’s share of the settlement was $51 million. No timetable for the transition of the prison was mentioned. The facilities had been rebuilt to hold as many as 1,200 elderly and special need prisoners, but never achieved that population level during its short existence. Millbrand said funding for continued operations will be needed beyond the initial seed money, and he believed that would be provided from the federal government, possibly through the Veteran’s Administration.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessCityCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyFeaturedGranadaHollyLamarThe Journal AlertWiley


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