UPDATED: Closed Northern Michigan Prison Could Reopen This Summer

“If this thing goes, continues to go, it can do nothing but provide more income for the entire community.”

A Northern Michigan prison facility’s re-opening may be on the horizon.

If it houses prisoners again, it will help an entire community.

The GEO North Lakes Correctional Facility has a history of shutting down, taking jobs with it.

As of last night, the community has reason to believe it will open again.

The prison in Lake County’s Weber Township first closed in 2005 because of state budget cuts.

It reopened in may 2011 to house prisoners from out-of-state, then closed four months later.

Since then, Lake County has experienced a sharply declining economy.

9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman learned more about the potential reopening in Thursday’s Top Story.

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Communities in Lake County are hopeful that the prison will reopen.

It’s a process that has taken years to accomplish, but with the help of MichiganWorks! and GEO, county commissioners say the possibility of reopening is better than ever.

“We almost gave up but I don’t think anyone in Lake County ever gives up,” says Shelly Myers, Lake County Clerk and chief fiscal officer. “We’ll take this again. We’ll run with it as far as we can.”

Last night, the Lake County board of commissioners met with MichiganWorks! and representatives of GEO about the possibility of reopening the GEO prison.

“The dangling of the carrot to lake county,” Myers says. “We take it, we grasp onto it, we hold it as tight as we can. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put it in the stew and the stew will be filled with prisoners.”

The county board says the prison could open up as soon as mid-July and Michigan works has posted job openings online.

“We’ve known for several weeks that GEO is looking at reopening the facility here,” says Dan Sloan, vice-chair of the Lake County board of commissioners, “I’ve been told it is a long term contract, so we won’t have the open-and-close issue that’s been out there in the past.”

A statement from GEO states, “As a matter of normal business practice, our company surveys labor markets around our facilities in order to be prepared to support a potential future, prospective of these facilities’ operations. However, at this time, there’s no concrete anticipated time-table.”

While it is not yet concrete, the hope is there.

“This will impact positively in the community,” Sloan says. “We know initially it will have a large impact on our businesses, in terms of purchases as people go and come to work and go home.”

County commissioners say around 150 jobs could return if the prison returns and former workers could get their jobs back.

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A Northern Michigan prison closed for years may now have another shot at reopening.

It is a new development in an up-and-down process that started ten years ago.

The GEO North Lakes Correctional Facility closed due to funding cuts.

The GEO prison reopened for a short time in 2011 in Lake County’s Webber Township before closing once more just a few months later.

The announcement came Wednesday night at the county commissioner’s meeting that Michigan Works! is opening the floor to job applications for positions at the prison.

If all things go well — the county says they will be bringing in new prisoners in July.

Last week, Governor Snyder signed a bill that would allow the Department of Corrections to house prisoners from out of state.

This comes after years of the prison being open on-and-off again in the county — which the county says has only been a problem for the local economy.

They are working with Michigan Works! now to get the word out that the prison is now taking applications — which the county clerk says will help the tourism community get out of the red.

The clerk says the county is still working with Webber Township to settle the water and sewer services for the prison for the future.

She added more jobs offered by the prison could help unemployment in county — which is one of the highest in the entire state.

We’ll work to bring you more details about the prison from the county — as well as what the community thinks with team coverage tonight on 9&10 News at 6:00.