GEO prison to reopen

UNDER GUARD: The North Lake Correctional Facility in Webber Township has remained unused since 2005. (Pioneer photo/Brendan Losinski)

UNDER GUARD: The North Lake Correctional Facility in Webber Township has remained unused since 2005. (Pioneer file photo)

WEBBER TWP. — After being closed for 10 years, the GEO North Lake Correctional Facility in Webber Township is scheduled to reopen this July.

County morale, not to mention employment rates, took a significant hit following the closing of the facility in 2005. This was doubly true when the facility was scheduled to reopen in 2005. Five hundred jobs were promised to area residents before the reopening stalled in negotiations. With the facility opening again this could mean a huge boost to the local economy.

“Obviously this is good news,” said Webber Township Supervisor Tony Gagliardo. “It will mean more jobs, it will stimulate area businesses, it could mean the creation of new businesses in the county. It was a rough setback when this place closed and it will be good to get things moving again.”

The decision to reopen the facility was made by GEO, the company that owns the prison. They have been tight-lipped about details regarding the reopening, however, it is believed between 1,200 and 1,600 prisoners will be transferred from out of state.

“As a matter of normal business practice, our company surveys labor markets around our facilities in order to be prepared to support a potential future, prospective operation of these facilities,” said Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations for GEO.

Specifics about the facility’s new mandate have thus far been vague, and several details are still being decided. What is known is the reopening of the facility and the importing of several prisoners from out of state will mean a much-needed influx of jobs into the community.

“We have been in recent communications with the GEO group, and they are ramping up the hiring process,” said Michelle Rasmussen, business services director for MichiganWorks! West Central. “They have sent out two sets of letters to two sets of people asking them if they wish to reapply: those who were previously employed there, and those who were eligible for employment the last time they were exploring the option of reopening the facility.”

Rasmussen also reports GEO is looking to hire about 130 people in 16 different job titles by the beginning of June. Those who have not previously been employed or applied may still apply for these new jobs.

There remain a few issues which need to be worked out before anything can be finalized. Notably, the water and sewage contracts between GEO, Webber Township and the village of Baldwin. Gagliardo said he is confident negotiations like this will not impede the opening of the facility, as everyone in the county knows how significant the influx of jobs and business would be.

“We all know what reopening the prison will mean,” said Gagliardo. “This will be a big step forward for Lake County.”

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Posted by Brendan Losinski

Brendan is the reporter for the Lake County Star. He works in the office in Baldwin and can be reached at (231) 745-4635 and by email at blosinski@pioneergroup.com.

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