Explore unmpress.com Books spanning the culture & history of the Southwest American Indians Literature Anthropology Archaeology Art & Photography Biographies Chicano/a Studies Architecture Travel & Recreation Environment University of New Mexico Press UNMPRESS.COM 800.249.7737 KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, creates innovative television that inspires and educates not just in Austin, but throughout all of Texas. KLRU explores politics with Texas Monthly Talks; makes learning fun with The Biscuit Brothers and Central Texas Gardener; and showcases live music with Austin City Limits. Look for these KLRU programs on your local. PBS stations. klru tv and beyond klru.org in late June, but only “as a businessman, not as a state senator.” Nonetheless, he acknowledges that he put in a good word for his friends. “I thought it was going to be another company that was being considered,” Lucio said, “that was when I told [Guerra] that I felt MTC [Management & Training Corp.] would do a good job.” By July 17, the consortium prevailed, and county officials approved $60.7 million in bonds that must be paid off in the unusually short period of two-and-a-half years at 6 percent interest. Harling won the wavering county officials with the promise of future millions. He whipped up spreadsheets showing the detention facility generating up to $10.6 million in the first two years and $13.6 million in the third. The impressive figures primarily rest on the assumption that in addition to $2.25 per prisoner per day, the county will receive $48 for each detainee once an occupancy level of 1,800 is achieved. The official bond statement does not guarantee this. In fact, it lists an “amount up to $48” after the investors are paid, Management & Training gets its cut of $28.75 a prisoner per day, and all other possible expenditures have been exhausted. On July 24, the county signed an option to purchase the land for the new detention facility, after Harling provided a personal check for $15,000 as a down payment. County Judge Salinas says he believes the facility will provide the revenue the other jails failed to generate. “It’s on paperthey can’t back out,” he says. But even Harling admits those revenue amounts are not written in stone. “I don’t think there’s anything written that guarantees that,” he told the Observer. “It’s just a ‘what if.'” Actually, there are lots of “what ifs.” The monthly debt service the county must maintain is $2.7 million, which, according to the official bond documents, can only be achieved with the detention center 90 percent filled each month. In addition, Homeland Security has only signed its contract with the county for two yeai -s. After that, the county will have to negotiate with a new administration. On August 3, President Bush arrived in the Valley, the day after the first batch of detainees moved into their temporary home. Only 45 days earlier, the Raymondville site had been a cotton field. Almost overnight, several tentlike, Kevlar-covered, beige modular pods, each holding 200 detainees, had sprung up. Bush discussed the importance of the new detention beds and marveled at the “new prosperity” in the region. “Gosh, it wasn’t all that long ago that… the economy was tough down here. It was kind of farming, and that was all,” he said. Guerra notes the timing of the detention center’s opening and the president’s visit. “It’s a political project,” he says. “This George Bush appearance in the Valley cost us $60 million. “They kind of paint a pretty picture,” continues Guerra. “Once they line their pockets, they saddle their horses and go their own way.” Still, Salinas, who is retiring as county judge, is dreaming of the great things Willacy County can do with what he sees as a financial windfall. “You can’t imagine what relief taxpayers will have,” he says. “Maybe someday, someday we’ll have enough revenue from [the federal jail and the detention center] to not have taxes.” 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 20, 2006
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