Last Modified: Saturday, September 22, 2012 5:38 PM
Local mayors echoed each other’s concerns of the possible “ripple effect” the shuttering of C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy will have on their local economies.
Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach and Vinton Mayor Kenneth Stinson accompanied DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan to meet with state officials Wednesday to discuss the reasons behind closing the prison. The three emphasized the impact the closure would have on the entire Southwest Louisiana economy.
The state Department of Public Safety and Corrections announced Friday it would close the 942-bed, medium-security prison by November in an effort to save the state about $3 million in its current fiscal year and $12 million in the next.
Roach said layoffs from the closure will potentially “cause disruption” throughout Southwest Louisiana.
“When you talk to a consultant about an economic development project they are always going to be quick to tell you that you can take $1 of payroll and multiply that time anywhere from five to seven times in order to get the impact that dollar has on the community in terms of benefits to be derived,” he said. “The converse is also true, if jobs are eliminated then spendable income is being taken away, so again, for every dollar that will be lost as a result of the closure can be multiplied five to seven times in terms of the impact on the community. So, it’s not just going to be a significant impact for DeQuincy but for the entire area because that money is spent throughout Calcasieu and Beauregard.”
The town of Vinton, which uses a six-man inmate crew from Phelps, could feel a direct impact to its budget as a result of the closure, Stinson said.
Vinton relies on inmate labor to supplement the services provided to the town through its Public Works Department.
Stinson said as a result of the closure, the town may have to hire crews to mow grass and pick up trash along roadways.
Stinson said the impact DeQuincy wwill endure from shuttering the prison is a “devastating blow.”
“DeQuincy, like Vinton, is a small city, and when a city that size loses that many jobs it’s hard to absorb that,” he said.
Roach said the city of Lake Charles doesn’t use Phelps inmates on a regular basis, but they have in the past for various projects.
“Every time we have used some of the inmates they have done a really good job for us, so we know how valuable they can be in terms of working with a community and helping a community,” he said.
Roach said the main concern of the meeting, however, were employees.
“When layoffs come up at any point in time, it’s a very traumatic experience,” he said. “But, especially now, a layoff is more traumatic because of the state of the economy in the country today.”
Both Stinson and Roach said they attended the meeting to support Henagan.
“Mayor Henagan was very firm and very direct in terms of his position that he didn’t think this was the right thing to do, and he communicated that very professionally,” Roach said. “I was very impressed in the way he handled himself. I think he did a very good job advocating for the interest of his community, the people of DeQuincy and Phelps.”
Phelps has 269 employees: 10 will retain their jobs in the jail’s administrative offices, and 100 will be transferred to other state correctional centers.