- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (AP) - A former tent-city prison largely destroyed in a 2015 inmate riot will be sold by a South Texas county to a private prison company in a move that could boost area employment.

Willacy County commissioners approved the sale to Management and Training Corp., the Valley Morning Star (http://bit.ly/2ngwhna ) reported. The Utah-based company has operated the prison since it opened in 2006.

The Willacy County Correctional Center in Raymondville was a 3,000-bed minimum-security unit largely made up of tent-like domes. After the February 2015 riot, the unit was uninhabitable and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons canceled its contract with MTC.

The closure of the prison led to 400 employee layoffs, slashing a third of Willacy County’s $8.1 million general fund budget.

Commissioner Oscar DeLuna says the county agreed Tuesday to sell the 53-acre facility for the amount owed on its bonds. MTC also will pay Willacy County $3 daily for each inmate to be held there. The county will also receive annual property tax revenue from the facility, though the amount is dependent on an appraisal.

“It’s a great deal,” according to DeLuna.

MTC plans to create about 275 jobs, said County Judge Aurelio Guerra. The sale could mean up to $450,000 in annual property tax revenue for the county.

MTC doesn’t yet have a contract with any agencies to hold their inmates, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement has expressed interest in the facility, officials said. President Donald Trump’s push to deport immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and convicted of crimes helped lead to the deal, Guerra said.

The deal also comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month repealed a memo that directed the Bureau of Prisons to phase out the use of private prisons.

The property would generate property tax revenues equal to about one-third of Raymondville’s current tax base if it is appraised at $68 million, said Garcia.

“That’s the best deal Raymondville ever got,” Mayor Gilbert Gonzales said. “It’s going to give us a big boost.”

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Information from: Valley Morning Star, http://www.valleystar.com

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