August 14, 2009 1:16 PM
BY CESAR NEYOY, BAJO EL SOL
"We are very happy to come here," said Emerald CEO Clay Lee during a recent visit to San Luis.
"We were very well received. This is going to be a very good change. I don't want to say that things were bad before, but change is inevitable."
The possibility that city would not renew Civigenics' contract surfaced months ago out of concern that the prison's planned expansion had lagged.
"There was a year of negotiations so that they would present us plans for expansion, but nothing concrete ever materialized," said Mayor Juan Carlos Escamilla.
"The building was designed from the beginning for 1,000 beds," he added. "It's not going to be bigger than that. We don't want to be known as a city of prisons. We want to control (that perception) and that's the way it will be."
Civigenics was contracted two years ago to build the prison, at a cost of $25 million funded by municipal bonds, then take over operation.
Civigenics declined to comment.
The process of transfer began last week and will conclude Saturday, Emerald's first official day as subcontractor.
Emerald is not a public company directed by a large board of directors, Lee said.
"There are three of us who make the decisions. Therefore we're able to do it immediately."
Lee said the building's good condition and design will make it easy to add beds and expand as desired by the city.
"We only need to plan exactly how that addition will be made," he said. "Time will tell, but the worst-case scenario is that we'll have 300 new beds, even though I believe we'll be able to double that."
The goal is to reach the 1,000-prison bed mark contemplated in the original design.