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RICHMOND — Still hoping to bring some jobs to Grayson at the county's still-unoccupied state prison, Del. Bill Carrico is trying to find the funding to begin operations there.
"I introduced a budget amendment for $25 million to cover the operational cost of the prison," the Republican from Fries told The Gazette on the phone from Richmond last week.
Information from the General Assembly shows that Carrico inserted a request for an additional $24.8 million in fiscal year 2011-12 from the general fund "for the operation of the Mount Rogers Correctional Center."
Sen. Roscoe Reynolds (D-Henry County) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate to appropriate $10 million for the state prison.
At this point, it costs the state $715,000 just for maintenance and utility payments while waiting to come out of state funding limbo.
Because projections have said that the new prison will need 350 employees, there's a lot riding on the facility officially opening.
Unemployment figures in the Twin Counties remain in the double digits, even though the state average is only 6.6 percent, according to figures from the Virginia Employment Commission. Unemployment is 11 percent in Carroll, 11.4 percent in Grayson and 11.9 percent in Galax.
While in Richmond, Carrico has been lobbying for prison funding with his fellow delegates and senators in the General Assembly and also visited with the governor.
With all the budget cuts that Virginia faces, Carrico acknowledge that his $25 million budget amendment has a slim chance of passing.
Reductions of $10 million to the Department of Corrections budget have already been ordered.
In addition, Gov. Bob McDonnell recently appointed a new commissioner of the Department of Corrections. That commissioner has been directed to study which prisons are running efficiently and effectively and which are not.
"There's just a lot of things in the DOC that needs to be addressed and they'd take care of it as soon as possible," Carrico was told.
Those prison jobs being filled could lower the unemployment rate in the Twin Counties to the single digits, the delegate expects.
Grayson County Administrator Jonathan Sweet was in Richmond last week, using his time to lobby for the prison, as well.
The effort also has the support of Galax and Carroll County, which both approved resolutions asking the state fund the operation of the prison.