Hardin resident voices ‘major concerns’ about Two Rivers Detention facility

Letter to the editor
Thursday, October 11, 2018

As a taxpayer in both the City of Hardin and Big Horn County, I have major concerns about the county leasing or purchasing the Two Rivers Detention Facility.

There are many questions unanswered by Two Rivers Authority:

First: Who owns the land and who owns the building?

Second: Have the bondholders given Two Rivers, in writing, the authority to negotiate with anyone regarding the sale or lease of this property? Has a firm price ever been offered?

Third: Are they willing to have a certified structural engineer inspect the water, electrical, fire, sprinklers, and heating and cooling system?

Fourth: How much money is actually owed to the bondholders and how much money has been put into the project by the city?

Fifth: How much do the utilities in the facility cost now? In 2012, they were said to be $10,000 a month unoccupied.

Sixth: In the Legislative audit from the State of Montana, dated Nov. 27, 2007, beginning November 2008, Two Rivers would owe $211,252 a month. How has this been addressed?

As an answer to Two Rivers’ rebuttal in the Big Horn County News for the week of Oct. 11, I urge you to go online and read the National Institute of Corrections TA 14-J1005 by Mark Goldman dated April to May, 2014. This document addresses many of the statements brought up in the article. Has the American Civil Liberties Union letter been addressed?

Big Horn County Memorial Hospital, Heritage Acres Nursing Home, McDonald’s and other businesses struggle to find a 24/7 reliable work force. This problem is nationwide. Hardin does not have adequate housing at this time for an increased work force.

A book could be written about Two Rivers from the beginning in 2004-05 to present day in October 2018. Since its completion in 2007, this building only has been occupied approximately 18 months. What has Two Rivers done to fill the facility?

This is not my first letter objecting to the purchase or lease of this facility. On Oct. 12, 2012, I wrote to the commissioners about my concern then. I focused especially on a report by TRA Executive Director Jeff McDowell at a TRA meeting published in the Big Horn County News. At the meeting, he spoke on problems with the rooftop units that provide both heating and cooling, and water pipes freezing. Six years later, have these problems been fixed?

I urge you, as taxpayers of the City of Hardin and Big Horn County, to do your homework before voting “No” to a new, expanded jail. Go on the internet and read about Two Rivers. Decide for yourself.

The bonds are revenue bonds, not obligation bonds. There is no obligation on the part of the City of Hardin, Big Horn County or the State of Montana, except the black eye it gives our city and county.

Drive by the detention center on 1015 N. Lessard Lane. The building looks abandoned and run down, with weeds growing into the fence, etc. See for yourself.

I urge you to vote “Yes” for the expansion of the Big Horn County jail. There are too many unanswered questions about Two Rivers Detention Facility. Time is running out before the Big Horn County jail will be forced to close.

Mary Slattery

Hardin

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