In response to Gov. Bill Ritter's request that all state departments and agencies propose 10 percent cuts to their budgets for the coming fiscal year, the Department of Corrections is proposing the closure and sale of a minimum security prison in Rifle.
As part of its proposed $51.2 million in reductions, DOC officials are proposing decommissioning the Rifle Correctional Center, with the ultimate goal of selling it to a private buyer. Officials estimate the sale of the prison could generate about $7.7 million. The legislature is currently considering the proposal, but has not yet approved it. The problem, however, is that there is no prospective buyer for the property and real estate in Rifle is not immune from the nationwide real estate slump.
Capitol insiders had recently speculated that Shell Oil might be interested in purchasing the prison and converting into employee housing. According to James Thurman, Shell's government affairs manager, the company has no such plans. "There is no truth to that rumor," he said. "We have no interest in buying that prison for any reason."
Evan Dreyer, Ritter's spokesperson, said he is unaware of a potential buyer for the property, but that it was still early in the process.
The proposal to close and sell the prison requires a nod from the General Assembly and is currently being considered by the Joint Budget Committee. Despite not having approval for the sale from the legislature and the lack of interested buyers, the DOC is still making plans to transfer Rifle inmates and staff to other facilities around the state. By closing the facility, the DOC can reduce operating costs by an estimated $606,021 each year, while also gaining revenue from the sale.