Feds No Solution For Ft. Lyon
The Pueblo Chieftain | 0 comments
DENVER — House Minority Leader Sal Pace said Wednesday he is not optimistic about discussions of a possible federal solution to the pending vacancy at Fort Lyon Correctional Facility near Las Animas.
Pace, D-Pueblo, said the meandering federal budgetary process is unlikely to yield a tenant for Fort Lyon when the Colorado Department of Corrections vacates it. The prison is tentatively set to close on March 1.
Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed the prison’s closure as part of his budget-balancing package for fiscal year 2011-12. Since that announcement, the governor’s office has held frequent discussions with U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Colorado Democrats, to identify a purpose for Fort Lyon with the federal government, which shut down a veterans’ hospital there and gave the state the site in 2000.
If the state stops using Fort Lyon as a prison, ownership reverts back to the federal government.
Hickenlooper’s budget director, Henry Sobanet, told the Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday that efforts with the U.S. senators to find a new occupant for Fort Lyon are ongoing. The possibility that it could become a care center for wounded veterans has been a frequent theme in Hickenlooper’s public comments on the subject.
“It would be great if we could do that,” Pace said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s realistic.”
Under the structure of the federal budgeting cycle, a project would need to be in the budget presently making its way through Congress in order to come online at 2013 at the earliest, Pace said. And even then, creation of a project doesn’t mean funding of a project.
“Let me put it in perspective. The FryArk project of 1962 authorized the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The first time any money was authorized for the Arkansas Valley Conduit was $5 million last year by (former U.S. Rep.) John Salazar,” Pace said.
He also is concerned that campaign promises by Colorado’s new congressmen not to send earmarks back to their districts also pose an obstacle to placing a veterans' hospital at Fort Lyon,