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Emerald's bid for Mineral Wells detention center dead for a second time

Private prison corporation Emerald's second attempt to build a speculative immigrant detention center in Mineral Wells is officially dead, according to a story from the Mineral Wells Index ("ICE project deal dead," October 8):

A two and-a-half year effort to bring an illegal immigrant detention center to Mineral Wells ended Tuesday night with several long seconds of silence from city council members.

A resolution to continue negotiations with Emerald Correctional Management to build a detention facility funded by non-recourse revenue bonds issued by the Mineral Wells Local Government Corporation failed when council members failed to second a motion in support.

“That’s a pretty clear message that the city council has no interest in doing this project,” Steve Afeman, chief operating officer of Emerald, said Wednesday morning. “We’re not about to go back.”

The story itself has some interesting tidbits.  After private financing for the facility fell through, the company tried to convince the city to float revenue bonds to pay for the facility's construction.  The City Councilmembers were having none of it. 

“I don’t think it’s the right thing at the right time,” [Councilmember] Terry said. “I want to see the Baker Hotel situation [succeed] and I don’t want anything to get in the way … I just think there are better deals out there and eventually they’ll come. I feel that Emerald is not being up front with us.”

Terry was the lone dissenting vote when the council agreed to accept a lower impact fee than Emerald announced they would pay the city before the site was moved, asking whether it would be a sign of things to come.

“I don’t like the idea of the city having to issue bonds,” councilman Tommy Blissitte told the Index Wednesday. “It would look bad on the city if they defaulted.”

Clearly, this is a major victory for opponents of the private detention industry in Mineral Wells and around the state.  As we've reported, this is the second time that Emerald has been rebuffed in Mineral Wells this year.  Emerald also had two similar speculative prison proposals defeated in Caldwell County last year.  In spite of the rejections, the private prison company vows to continue pitching private detention centers, even in face of an immigration detention reform that may reduce demand for ICE detention beds. 

“It’s a business decision that the city made and we respect that,” [Emerald's] Afeman said. “There are two other sites that we’ve been in contact with this week.” 

We'll keep you posted on where Emerald moves next with their speculative prison plans.  See our previous posts on Emerald's proposed detention centers in Mineral Wells:

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