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Committee Asked To Fund Prison Repair

Stuart and Jen Robertson - Flickr: State Penitentiery, Rawlins Wyoming

Members of a task force that reviewed a wide range of structural problems at the Wyoming maximum security prison in Rawlins stressed that they believe using up to $125 million to fix the facility will work.

Some have asked for the state to look at building a new prison or consider other options to house the inmates. The prison that was built roughly 15 years ago, has a number of structural problems due to shifting soils. Sheridan Senator Bruce Burns told the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee that it appears that architects noticed problems with the soil and developed a plan for it. But that plan was ignored.

"They saw the expansive soils when they were building the south unit and they actually made a good plan to account for it, but it was badly executed," said Burns. 

The state is considering litigation against the contractor. Outgoing Speaker of the House Kermit Brown said he’s been convinced that fixing the facility is the best approach and Senator Stephan Pappas agreed. He is an architect by trade and Pappas told the committee that if they fix some previous construction problems, the prison could be used for another 50 years. To avoid problems in the future, Speaker Brown urged the legislature to develop a plan to have more oversight of construction projects.

"We need to find a way that architects who designed the project are involved in oversight of the project through the entire construction phase," said Pappas. "We need to involve structural engineers and geotechnical engineers and we need to have on-site people. And I think in the past the state has really cut corners there when it comes to construction oversight."

Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly had hoped the task force would also look into alternatives to prison. She hopes lawmakers take a good look at that issue in the future.  

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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