A pair of leading Democratic lawmakers are pushing back on a bill staunchly supported by Gov. John Hickenlooper to repurpose part of an old, rural prison campus as a residential facility for the state’s homeless.
Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver and Rep. Claire Levy of Boulder question both the cost and whether the initiative isn’t more about finding a purpose for the Fort Lyon prison shuttered at Hickenlooper’s request than it is about helping resolve homelessness.
“There’s some real concerns about the conditions and maintenance of the facility,” said Steadman, the chairman of the Joint Budget Committee. “It’s an old facility that’s going to have ongoing costs for years to come.”
Asbestos has been found in the buildings and on the grounds.
Steadman is opposed to the bill, which easily passed the House on Monday. It now goes to the Senate, where it could face a tougher battle.
Facing a budget shortfall two years ago of more than $1 billion, Hickenlooper closed the prison to save the state cash — a move that killed about 200 jobs in Bent County, where poverty rates were hovering near 35 percent.