The Department of Corrections voted to reorganize the inmate population and to move some of them back to a facility in Sayre that closed last year. Officials said the move will help manage the inmate population and will save money.
Thursday afternoon, the Oklahoma Board of Corrections voted to lease an empty prison in Sayre for the next five years and consolidate 15 statewide work centers in the process.
The proposal for the North Fork Correctional facility in Sayre passed unanimously. It's been closed since last year; a closure city officials said was a hard hit.
"The impact it had on our town, it was catastrophe for the town, because we lost funding for our city and our hospital had to close, and it was kind of a domino effect, and the reopening is just going to breathe life back into our town,” Sayre Chamber of Commerce Director Belinda Graham said.
And according to Department of Corrections, Director Joe Allbaugh said the decision will also help with a much bigger crisis.
"We have an 11 million dollar hole between now and July,” he said. “We started out 38 million in the hole. The legislation can't give me any more money to run this agency."
The move, he said, will put staff and offenders in a safe and modern facility and pay for the lease without asking the state for money.
Most of the inmates will come from a facility in Granite and will start showing up July 1, a quick moving plan of action that came down to the wire.
"The contract wasn't ready until late last night,” Allbaugh said. “It was a moving target."
For the first 18 months, the lease will be free of charge. For the second half of fiscal year 2018, the DOC will pay 4.5 million dollars and then $10 million, $11 million, and finally in 2020 $12 million.
"We're just glad to have the opportunity to have employees get their jobs back,” Sayre Mayor Eddie Tom Lakey said.