Published: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 6:15 PM CDT
Thelma Grimes/San Pedro Valley News-Sun
The Benson City Council was not persuaded on the idea of having a detention center built to house illegal immigrants without more proof that the federal government would pay for it.
In a short discussion Monday night, the council heard from James Parkey of Corplan Corrections, headquartered in Texas.
Corplan Corrections has proposed building a detention center near the Benson Municipal Airport using a $21 million bond the city would secure.
Corplan said the bonds would be retired from funds paid by federal agencies to house illegal immigrants in the holding facility.
But City Manager Glenn Nichols said he has checked with numerous agencies such as Immigration Customs Enforcement, U.S. Marshal's Service and U.S. Customs, and all stated they would only use such a facility if there is a valid contract.
With no contract in place, Nichols recommended the council not proceed with plans to build the facility.
Parkey, who attended Monday's meeting, said there would be no liability to the city, and Corplan Corrections is asking the city to back the plan so they can "go to Washington and find a contract."
Councilman Al Sacco said the liability to the city is "our good name." The first-term council member said he would not support such a proposal ever.
Parkey said with more illegal immigrants being apprehended by authorities in Southern Arizona, this proposal is Benson's opportunity to get ahead economically.
Councilwoman Jo Deen Boncquet said the city could secure bonds and use funding on projects more beneficial to the city, noting that illegal immigration is a hot topic in Arizona right now, and Benson should stay out of the business.
Vice Mayor Toney King said when he first heard the proposal in January, it sounded like a good business venture for the city, but now, with so many questions surrounding the project, the risks aren't worth it.
Councilman John Lodzinski said with too many unanswered questions it's better to "keep my hand on the city wallet."
Councilman David Lambert questioned the deal, stating if it was such a good investment, why didn't the company find sponsors or investors, instead of having the city secure the required funding.
Mayor Mark Fenn said at this time he agrees with fellow council members, telling Parkey that Corplan should get the federal contracts in writing before coming to cities with the proposal.
Councilwoman Lori McGoffin was not in attendance, and no action was taken on the issue.