So I contacted state Sen. Chuy Hinojosa, who currently sits on the LBB, to get an answer straight from the horse's mouth. He had a staffer send me a memo on the topic which read, in relevant part:
- TYC would realize $3 million in savings for FY 2010 if these facilities underwent accelerated closure.
- During disucssions whether to pursue accelerated closure for these two facilities, several factors were taken into consideration including:
- Impact on the safety of the youths at the facility
- Impact on the local economy (retraining and relocation of TYC employees) ...
The LBB, during a recent inquiry by TYC, unanimously opted against the accelerated closures.
I should mention, btw, Hinojosa also (rightfully) chided me that I'd given Sen. John Whitmire credit for the TYC Sunset legislation he carried last year, and he's 100% right about that. Whitmire had been the most vocal proponent of downsizing TYC and moving more youth into community corrections settings, but it was Hinojosa's bill and there's no question he played a central role in all the recent reforms at the agency.
According to the Odessa American, local officials hope some other state agency will move into the facility in Pyote, which is the first I've heard of such a suggestion:
Ward County officials opposed an abrupt closing of the detention center, saying it would cause hardship and undercut efforts to transition the facility into another state agency.
“They are trying to find something else for this facility so that those jobs will stay here,” said Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth, who noted that the detention center has received several million dollars worth of upgrades in recent years and is one of the nicest TYC facilities in the state. “We’re all working very hard to find some kind of seamless transition to put some other state agency in there.”
The idea of moving another agency to Pyote to keep jobs there doesn't seem to jibe with TYC and LBB's focus on "retraining and relocation of TYC employees." Clearly nobody knows for sure yet what will happen to either the facilities or the employees when these units close. For folks working at these units, as for many of us, these are uncertain times.
The choice not to accelerate closures at WTSS or Victory Field may be an indication that the 5% cuts the Governor called for before the primary won't be as well received by state legislators going forward. These cuts were low hanging fruit, closing facilities that will shut down in four months, anyway. That makes me wonder if we'll see any early cuts at all during the interim, or if LBB will wait for the next budget process to make up what are predicted to be sizable gaps?