Council Vows To Fight Closing of Valley Prison
City Council is getting into the battle over Gov. John Hickenlooper's intention to close the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas, telling a delegation of Arkansas Valley officials Monday that it would send a letter to the governor opposing any closing.
"If Fort Lyon was in the center of Denver, there wouldn't be any thought of closing it," Council President Ray Aguilera told more than a dozen officials from Otero, Prowers and Bent counties who came to council's work session.
Council was in agreement to give what support it could to saving Fort Lyon and told Bent County Commissioner Bill Long they would send him a letter of support before Long meets with Hickenlooper on Wednesday.
The show of solidarity is rooted in the economics of the region. All of the officials talked about how the Arkansas Valley communities rely on Pueblo for essential services and that an economic loss in Las Animas — Fort Lyon employs 204 people — would ripple into Pueblo's economy as well.
Lisa Nolder, director of Prowers County Development, said that Lamar residents alone spend $11 million a year in Pueblo.
Long pointed out that if Fort Lyon is closed, not only will jobs be lost, but those families will have to move, an impact that could take as many as 50 students out of local schools. That loss would cost the local school district $7,000 per student in state support.
"So we're facing a double hit in that respect," Long told council.