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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Leavenworth officials lobby for prison project

  • Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger has made several trips to Washington, D.C., as a Leavenworth City Commission member. But, he said the trip he made last week with Leavenworth City Manager Scott Miller was the most productive.
    Preisinger said he and Miller pushed the issue of funding a new federal prison in Leavenworth as they met with federal legislators from Kansas.
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  • Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Preisinger has made several trips to Washington, D.C., as a Leavenworth City Commission member. But, he said the trip he made last week with Leavenworth City Manager Scott Miller was the most productive.
    Preisinger said he and Miller pushed the issue of funding a new federal prison in Leavenworth as they met with federal legislators from Kansas.
    "And they did hear us, and they understand the impact of it," Preisinger said.
    Preisinger and Miller spent time meeting with Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder, and other officials March 25 and 26 in Washington, D.C.
    Preisinger said a new prison next to the existing U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth has been at the top of the list of new facilities for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for several years. But, funding has not yet been allocated for the construction of the new prison.
    He said the new prison and an additional camp facility would add about 1,400 prison beds and 400 jobs.
    Construction would cost about $350 million.
    Preisinger said this would be the largest construction project for the Kansas City area since the Sprint headquarters complex was built in Overland Park.
    Preisinger said Congress previously appropriated money for an environmental impact study for the proposed new prison in Leavenworth. He said the study did not turn up any major issues.
    "It was all favorable," he said.
    Preisinger said the study has a limited shelf life, and he believes it essentially will have to be put into a shredder after Dec. 31, 2015.
    He said the new prison is sorely needed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
    "It's a very important project to the Bureau of Prisons," he said. "It's a huge project for Leavenworth."
    Preisinger said the federal lawmakers asked their staffs to contact the BOP to get all the details they can.
    After Preisinger and Miller met with Jenkins, the congresswoman sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.
    The letter does not specifically mention the Leavenworth prison project, but Jenkins indicated she supports funding for the BOP's Building and Facilities Appropriations Account in the amount of $350 million for Fiscal Year 2015.
    "Prison overcrowding in our federal institutions has a negative effect on wardens, corrections officers, and inmates alike," Jenkins wrote. "Because the Building and Facilities Appropriations account has not received funds for several years, no new construction is currently being undertaken. I believe that it is prudent to make an investment in new facilities to alleviate the current problems the Bureau of Prisons is facing."
    Preisinger said the letter is the first "hard action" he's seen in the more than three years city officials have been pushing the issue.
    Page 2 of 2 - Jenkins represents Kansas' 2nd Congressional District, which includes Leavenworth County.
    Yoder represents the 3rd District, which includes Wyandotte and Johnson counties.
    Even though Yoder doesn't represent Leavenworth, many BOP employees come from his district.
    And contractors from Yoder's district could potentially benefit from the prison construction project, Preisinger said.
    Preisinger said he and Miller also thanked federal lawmakers for intervening to help get Federal Emergency Management Agency approval for grant funding to construct a flood wall in Leavenworth.
    The flood wall will be built behind Riverfront Community Center.
    Assistant City Manager Paul Kramer said the wall likely won't be constructed until next year.
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