October 24, 2014

Prison officials receive annual funding for nationwide prison construction and site exploration

By James Kuch
News Editor | news@arenacindependent.com
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Update May 19, 3:31p.m.

STANDISH —Federal Bureau of Prison officials have confirmed that they have not received funding, specifically, for their environmental impact study for the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility to determine if the prison could be expanded for federal use.

Richard Cohn, chief of the capacity planning and site selection branch of the Federal Bureau of Prisons said the bureau has received annual funding, approved by congress for operations, like the environmental impact study that is planned at Standish Max.

“The bureau receives funding for new construction and site exploration every year,” Cohn said. “We are still planning our environmental impact study in Standish.

According to Standish City Manager Mike Moran, Congressman Dan Benishek, R-Iron Mountain, called to inform him about funding that has become available to perform the environmental impact study.

Kyle Bonini, spokesman for Benishek, said the congressman informed him that it was too soon to make any announcements about the situation.

“The Congressman is very interested in this project and its potential to create jobs in the area,” Bonini said. “That is why he wants to be as helpful as possible to move this project forward in an expeditious manner.”

Bonini said Benishek will be meeting with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on Tuesday, May 24 to discuss the matter.

Bridgette Lyles, site specialist of the capacity planning and site selection branch of the Federal Bureau of Prisons said the processes of selecting a contractor for the environmental impact study around Standish Max is beginning.

“We are moving forward with the procurement planning process to select a contractor to perform the environmental impact study,” she said.

Lyles said once a contractor is selected, the environmental impact study would take between 12 and 18 months to complete. She added that the study might begin late this summer.

Lyles said contractors for environmental impact studies are typically hired on a national basis by the General Services Administrations, which aid federal agencies.

“Contractors hired, typically, hire local subcontractors to aid them with the study,” she said. “Subcontractors can perform some of the technical services and geotechnical investigations of the area.”

Cohn said in August 2010, that an environmental impact study will show the effect of Standish Max becoming a federal prison will have on the community and the surrounding area.

“Now there already an existing location here, but because the facility is semi-surrounded by wetlands in the west and because the facility is 20 years old, and we wish to expand, we are required to complete an environmental impact study,” he said.

If the Bureau were to purchase the prison, they would need to expand. Chon told the Arenac County Independent in August that a high security federal prison will house 960 inmates. While it was operating, Standish Max could hold around 600 inmates.

“There is a need for us to construct a minimum security camp outside the secure perimeter of the institution,” he said. “There also has been talk by our agency, should we acquire the property, of putting in an additional housing unit.”

Moran said the beginning of the study is a big step toward the reopening of Standish Max.

“There are still a lot of hurdles to go but this is a positive step.”

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