Residents’ concerns about new Leavenworth prison include visibility, fate of buffalo
To submit comments about the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed new federal prison facilities in Leavenworth, send mail to: Richard A. Cohn, Chief or Bridgette Lyles, Site Selection Specialist; Capacity Planning and Site Selection Branch; Federal Bureau of Prisons, 320 First Street, NW, Room 5006, Washington, DC 20534. Residents can also send comments via fax, using the number (202) 616-6024.
To request a copy of the draft environmental impact statement, residents can contact Cohn by calling (202) 514-6470, sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org or using the contact information above.
Federal corrections officials on Wednesday presented two possible plans for a proposed new federal prison in Leavenworth, while also hearing concerns from residents about how the project might affect surrounding areas.
At a public hearing at the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth, mandated by federal environmental laws, Federal Bureau of Prisons officials allowed for public comment on a study document released last month that laid out two options for construction of a new medium-security federal correctional institution and minimum-security prison camp next to the existing U.S. Penitentiary in northern Leavenworth.
One plan would place both new facilities on the east side of the existing penitentiary, while the other would put the larger correctional institution on the east side while placing the new prison camp on the west side of the penitentiary.
Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger told the BOP officials that area residents might have concerns about the plan that would place the prison camp on the west end of the penitentiary property for one reason: the 11 buffalo that live on that end of the federal property there, which serve as an attraction that can be viewed from a city-owned viewing area nearby.
He said he hoped the bureau would consider the fate of the buffalo in their plans, even though the animals are owned by the bureau.
“I think the town thinks we all own the buffalo,” Preisinger said with a laugh.
He added that the city of Leavenworth would do whatever it could to help bring the new facilities, which officials have said would provide about 300 new full-time jobs, to town.
Rural Leavenworth resident Bryan Market told the officials he was concerned about the visibility of some parts of the planned facility from residential areas of Fort Leavenworth, which borders the Bureau of Prisons’ property.
“There will be quite a few folks, residents, families who will see everything that's going on,” Market said.
Preisinger suggested that the construction of a berm outside the facility might solve that problem, something he said had been done to block Fort Leavenworth residents’ views of the existing penitentiary.
The study document released last month, called a draft environmental impact statement, is part of a federally mandated study process that is scheduled to conclude with the approval of the project by the director of the Bureau of Prisons by the end of September 2012, said BOP official Richard Cohn after the meeting.
Also part of that process is a 45-day public comment period, which runs through Jan. 3. Anyone concerned about the prison project or the environmental impact statement can submit written comments by that date, all of which the bureau will address, Cohn said.
If the bureau approves the project in 2012, the fate of the possible new prison will be in the hands of Congress, which must grant funding for the project for it to be constructed. The bureau, which is facing a nationwide shortage of space for inmates, has the Leavenworth project at the top of its list of possible new facilities, Cohn said.
J. Scott Miller, Leavenworth city manager, said at a Leavenworth County Development Corporation board meeting this month that the city had been lobbying Congressional representatives to grant the roughly $320 million needed to construct the facility. He asked whether LCDC, the Leavenworth County Port Authority or any of the county's other cities could help with the effort.
“Any assistance you could provide certainly will bring us closer,” Miller said.