Prison Task Force meets today in Rawlins

By Trudy Balcom

RAWLINS - The legislative Task Force on State Penal Facilities will meet for two days in Rawlins starting today.

The meeting will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the auditorium at Rawlins High School.

The agenda for the meeting for Thursday includes an update from the Department of Corrections, an overview of the history of prison facilities and testimony from area officials including Mayor Robert Grauberger and Carbon County Commissioner Lindy Glode starting at 11 a.m.

“They've got a big job ahead of them,” Mayor Grauberger said of the task force Wednesday.

“I hope the task force takes into the consideration the human aspect, how it affects the economy of Rawlins and Carbon County,” Grauberger said

Glode said she would keep her comments brief, but she would be sure the task force understands that the community supports the penitentiary.

“The community supports the Pen remaining here. We have a responsibility to our constituents to keep business in Carbon County, it's our responsibility to help with these matters. We don't want any more people to lose their jobs,” Glode said.

The meeting is open to the public, and public comment will open at 1 p.m. today.

State Representative Don Burkhart encourages the public to attend.

“I think the people of Rawlins should show an interest in the meeting,” Burkhart said on Wednesday

On Friday, members of the task force will tour the Wyoming State Penitentiary in the morning, and review engineering reports and a design overview in the afternoon.

Public comment will be taken on Friday starting at 4:15 p.m.

The 13-member task force created by Senate File 91 to address structural problems at the Wyoming State Penitentiary was finalized earlier this spring.

House Speaker Kermit Brown, R-Albany, who practiced law in Rawlins for 20 years, said in April that the state wouldn't even consider moving the prison out of Rawlins.

“It isn't going anywhere without a constitutional amendment passed by majority of votes in the entire state. We're not going to consider having it anywhere other than Rawlins, like the constitution states,” Brown told the Daily Times. “It says near Rawlins. I don't see anything coming out of the task force that would dispute that at all.”

In March, Gov. Matt Mead signed Senate File 91 into law, which established a task force to look into structural problems at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.

The task force is charged with developing options and making recommendations that could include an approximately $85 million renovation project or building a new prison at a different location with a price tag of about $170 million.

The task force is made up of five state senators and five state representatives, many of whom have an engineering background.

The senators include Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan; Eli Bebout, R-Fremont; John Hastert, D-Sweetwater; Stephen Pappas, R-Laramie and Jeff Wasserburger, R-Campbell-Converse.

The representatives serving on the task along with Don Burkhart include Kermit Brown, R-Albany; James Bryd, D-Laramie; Dan Laursen, R-Park and David Miller, R-Fremont.

The task force includes several local figures including Rep. Don Burkhart, Bank of Commerce President Copper France, Sinclair Police Chief Jeff Sanders and Torrington banker Todd Peterson.

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