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Closing the Bartlett State Jail has potential to save millions of dollars

The city of Bartlett is preparing for possible financial difficulties if the Bartlett State Jail closes in September, reports the Temple Daily Telegram. But it may also open opportunities.

The Bartlett State Jail is one of four prisons that may be closed by September following recommendations by the Texas Senate Finance Committee, the workgroup that works on the state's budget for the next two years. The state is hoping to cut $250 million from the budget, and by closing the Bartlett jail, the state of Texas would save around $24 million. If the budget does pass, the prisoners from Bartlett will be transferred to other facilities. The Bartlett State Jail has been operated by CoreCivic (formerly CCA) since 1995, and has a history of hazing and sexual abuse.

Some city of Bartlett officials have expressed concerns that the jail closing will negatively hurt their economy. Officials said that sales tax collection will be reduced and area residents who work at the jail could be reassigned or laid off. The city would also lose over $500,000 a year in water in wastewater removal revenue that comes from the operation of the jail.

However, closing the jail could actually end up saving the city money in the long run. Due to the high population of the jail, as well as the city of Bartlett, the city's wastewater treatment plant is not in compliance with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. To bring Bartlett into compliance and avoid high fines would require expensive repairs and sludge clean up for the existing wastewater facility. By closing the jail, the city would reduce the demands on the wastewater facility, possibly saving the city thousands, or even millions, of dollars in necessary repairs and upgrades.

City and state officials are preparing for the possible shutdown by creating an economic development plan and looking at other possibilities or alternatives to improving the local economy.

Bartlett officials may want to speak with city of Eden officials, who are looking at ways to diversify their economy following the closing of the Eden Detention Center. They are looking into enhancing the arts in their town and finding ways to draw small businesses to the area.  

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