McALLEN — Just one company — Boca Raton, Fla.-based GEO Group — submitted a proposal Tuesday for McAllen’s private jail project.
Under the proposal, McAllen would provide the all-important federal detention contract. In exchange, the private jail operator would pay McAllen part of the federal government’s daily per-inmate fee. McAllen would generate $1 million to $2 million annually, according to information provided to the City Commission.
GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America and LCS Corrections Services, which all operate private prisons, attended a pre-proposal conference for the project last month. On Monday, though, GEO Group submitted the only proposal.
“I’m not going to open it,” said City Manager Mike Perez. “I’m going to let the Commission make that decision.”
The Monitor submitted a public information request for the proposal Tuesday afternoon, but City Attorney Kevin Pagan said McAllen wouldn’t proceed with the request until the City Commission either opened or rejected GEO Group’s proposal.
Mayor Jim Darling, an attorney who spent about 28 years advising the Commission before running for political office, said he didn’t have any problem with McAllen releasing the GEO Group proposal.
“But I would defer to Kevin on that,” Darling said.
Quickly opening and releasing the GEO Group proposal wouldn’t be without precedent.
In August 2011, McAllen accepted proposals to redevelop Boeye Reservoir. A company called McAllen Attractions — then-Mayor Richard Cortez was the company’s CEO — submitted the only proposal. McAllen opened and released the proposal without delay.
Unlike the McAllen Attractions proposal, the GEO Group proposal hasn’t been opened, Pagan said. The Commission probably will consider opening the proposal on Sept. 23, the next regularly scheduled meeting.
At least two other private prison operators considered McAllen’s private jail project, but decided against submitting a proposal.
“We looked at it,” said Dick Harbison, vice president of operations at LCS Correction Services, which runs the 1,400-bed East Hidalgo Detention Center in La Villa. “Currently we’re working on a couple of other projects, which precluded us from bidding on that. So rather than having too much on our plate, we’re concentrating on the other projects, which I simply cannot discuss at this point.”
Corrections Corporation of America also attended McAllen’s pre-proposal conference.
“We thoroughly review all procurement opportunities before deciding whether or not to submit proposals,” said Steven Owen, senior director of public affairs at Corrections Corporation of America. “While we are grateful to McAllen officials for the opportunity to submit a proposal, we have decided that this project is not a good fit for our company at this time. For competitive reasons, we do not elaborate on the internal process for assessing procurements.”