Commissioners discuss new prison project

John Richmeier
The Leavenworth Times

When they met this week, Leavenworth city commissioners were celebrating news of a new federal prison facility that will be constructed in the community.

City officials have long been advocating for a new federal prison in Leavenworth. But the Federal Bureau of Prisons is moving forward with the project now that Congress has allocated $356 million for the facility’s construction.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran discussed the project with Leavenworth Mayor Mike Griswold and City Manager Paul Kramer as well as BOP officials Monday during a conference call.

On Tuesday, Kramer discussed the announcement during a meeting of the Leavenworth City Commission.

The project will result in the construction of a federal correctional institution, or medium-security prison, and a satellite camp on the existing BOP grounds in Leavenworth.

The new prison will replace the existing U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth.

Kramer said it is anticipated the new prison will open in 2024.

Kramer said an environmental impact study for a new prison in Leavenworth was performed in 2014 and 2015. The process included public meetings.

He blamed political matters for then holding up the project.

Kramer said some people in the community may be under the impression the new prison will be a medical facility. But he said this is not the case.

Kramer acknowledged that earlier in process there had been discussion about the need for dialysis units for the federal prison system. But he said this is not part of the project that is now planned for Leavenworth.

“This is a standard medium security prison for the prison system,” he said.

Commissioner Mark Preisinger said the construction project will have a major economic impact on the community.

“This is huge,” he said.

Preisinger said it is a little saddening to know the famed U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth will be closing. Preisinger said he hopes this does not have a negative impact on the number of BOP employees in the city.

Brian Gross, BOP’s assistant director for administration, said during Monday’s conference call that the staffing level should remain about the same when the new prison opens.

Kramer said a BOP review of the existing U.S. Penitentiary determined the old prison is functionally obsolete.

“We’re extremely happy the (BOP) will be here for the next 100 years in this new facility,” he said.

Kramer said he does not want the community to lose the historic USP. He said there have been initial discussions in the BOP about possible future uses for the old USP facility but nothing has been finalized.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR

In other business

The Leavenworth City Commission:

• Received presentations regarding Saint John Hospital, Fort Leavenworth and additional Community Development Block Grant funding that was awarded to the city as a result of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

• Received a report from Lawrence Levine, who serves in the recently created city position of rental property coordinator.