Four years ago, state officials heralded the gift of a red brick hospital in a residential neighborhood, unveiling plans to convert the onetime Veterans Affairs center into a prison hospital for women.This project was first pushed by former state Sen. Kip Averitt, but after he left the Senate and was replaced by a freshman, there was no potent political constituency at the capitol for moving forward with the plan. As a result, "Within the past year, as part of cuts ordered by Gov. Rick Perry and state leaders to address a looming shortfall in the state budget, prison officials gave back the $10 million in operating costs that had been earmarked for the hospital."
Today, after funding for the project evaporated, the six-story building remains vacant. But Texas taxpayers continue to pick up the tab for maintaining the empty structure — $1.2 million and counting, officials said.
Prison officials said they are following the wishes of the Legislature, but a key lawmaker whose committee oversees the prison agency said keeping the building makes little sense in such tight budget times. Meanwhile, the female prisoners whom the hospital was intended to serve continue to be transported to the Gulf Coast when they require hospitalization.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
State won't convert old VA hospital for prison use
Reports Mike Ward at the Austin Statesman: