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The Uinta County Commissioners have provided a limited release of attorney-client privilege to facilitate this communication to address issues related to a potential immigration processing center and facilitate productive communication as this matter proceeds.
Over a year ago, Municipal Capital Markets Group, Incorporated, (“MCM”) approached the Commission with Management & Training Corporation (“MTC”) about the potential of an immigration processing center coming to Uinta County for the Salt Lake City Region of Immigration and Custom Enforcement (“ICE”). At the time, there was discussion of different options that the federal government may utilize to build such a facility. One option contemplated collaboration with Uinta County to be an active participant in the facility. Over a year ago, however, it became clear that ICE intended to utilize the formal request for proposal method for any project. At that time, the role Uinta County may play in such a project was narrowed and limited. The dynamics of the management of any potential center also changed when MTC determined that it was no longer interested in applying for the contracts with ICE and CoreCivic began to move forward.
The Commissioners have, as a group and individually, taken action to visit facilities and research this option. It is their understanding that the federal government has focused attention on the interior of the nation with these processing centers to attempt to address the growing immigrant population present. All of these new processing centers are in the northern region of the United States. The purpose is to conduct intake and processing of those detained in a civil holding facility rather than local jails or other overcrowded placements. Once present and medically cleared, individuals would be subject to processing for one of three primary options: immigration, amnesty or deportation. An immigration judge will determine whether an individual can be released pending the proceedings on a reasonable bond or if the individual should be detained. The intent of ICE would be that these individuals would be held for a period of 4-8 weeks. Local government, however, does not guide or direct this process.
No action has been taken by the Uinta County Commissioners and nothing has been determined or finalized at this time. It is important, though, for people to understand what may occur and the time for these decisions to be made is close at hand.
The Uinta County Commissioners may be asked to sell approximately 60 acres of property to MCM. This property would relate to a small portion of the land that was transferred to Uinta County by the State of Wyoming situated southeast of I-80 and east of the Bear River State Park. Any building of any form, built by Uinta County or a private entity, will have to conform to the covenants upon that land which specifically prohibit any hindrance of the view from the actual state park.
It is anticipated that the primary action MCM will ask the Commissioners to consider is an exclusive option to purchase the 60 acres to build this facility. Details of that agreement have not been determined and cannot be determined outside of a public meeting by the Commission. I, as counsel, however, have been directed to address certain details for the welfare and benefit of the County by the Commissioners. First, any option, regardless of whether MCM actually purchases the land, will provide for consideration of that act. This is often “earnest money” if you are familiar with the purchase of a home. This is money the county will keep no matter what happens with MCM and CoreCivic’s desire to obtain a contract from ICE. A survey of the exact acreage and boundaries of the property will be done solely at MCM’s expense. The price per acre for the sale will, also, be established by a 3rd party appraisal to determine the fair market value of the land at MCM’s sole expense.
Any potential sale would, of course, include the restrictive covenants that are already on the land related to the preservation of Bear River State Park, but, additionally, the Commissioners have directed me to address other concerns. These concerns include, but are not limited to:
As the Commissioners have previously noted, there will be in excess of 100 jobs created due to need for management, maintenance and detention officers at this facility and all such employees will make salaries commensurate with those that would be provided to federal employee counterparts. Additionally, there will be onsite office for the United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement including agents and support staff; there will be federally compliant immigration courtroom facilities; and onsite services for medical, dental and mental health care for the detainees. Any management company will also look for local opportunities to facilitate the provision of educational opportunities for detainees. Thus, employment will not solely relate to those who will supervise and protect the detainees but an entire community of individuals to ensure a smooth and complete operation of the facility. Will all of these employees be available within the existing population of Uinta County? Likely not. Will this be an opportunity to encourage new growth and relocation of families back into the area to ensure safe and proper use of the facility? The Commissioners earnestly believe it will.
The Commissioners anticipate an evening public forum wherein they will invite representatives from both MCM and CoreCivic to address the public in early December 2019. It is also anticipated that the Commissioners will be asked to take action, one way or another, related to a land transaction in the same time frame.
I look forward to more civil discussion between the public and the Commissioners as this matter moves toward a conclusion.
Loretta R. Howieson, Uinta County and Prosecuting Attorney