- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. (AP) - Officials in Bellows Falls are hoping to build a $23 million pretrial detention center for state and federal prisoners along with transitional housing for state inmates nearing the end of their sentences.

Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark unveiled the plans Tuesday night in the Rockingham Town Hall.

The plans for the proposed Liberty Mill Justice Center would include a renovation of the dilapidated Chem-Co mill building, located near the Connecticut River.

Clark said Wednesday the facility would have 100 beds for male inmates, 20 for females and 35 beds of transitional housing for state inmates.

The facility would also include a new office for the Sheriff’s Department, as well as a regional dispatch center and other prisoner facilities.

Vermont has for years lacked a pretrial detention facility for people who are facing crimes but have not been convicted and sentenced.

Clark says the facility would be privately owned by a corporation. The Sheriff’s Department would lease it for seven years, and then have the option to buy the facility.

Clark said he had identified sources of funding for the project, including tax credits, loans and contracts to hold the federal inmates.

Jill James of Bellows Falls, who opposes the project, described the village as a “struggling community, a poor community,” and said a prison of that size would greatly affect them. The village has about 3,000 people.

She said area residents should have a say in the project in the form of a vote.

Jim McAuliffe, chairman of the Rockingham School Board, said Clark should conduct a “thorough, social and economic impact study” of his project.

“We really deserve to know the economic impacts,” he said. “What is this going to do to our housing, our budgets, our social needs? Our educational needs?”

Clark said he has not received any state or local permits yet.

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This story has been corrected to say the facility would be for state and federal prisoners, not just federal prisoners, and include transitional housing.

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Information from: Rutland Herald, https://www.rutlandherald.com/

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