Pocatello officials say they still like a site on Philbin Road west of the city for a new state women's prison, despite its environmental problems.
The state Department of Correction is looking for a site for a 160-bed women's prison, which is to include a 60-bed community work center. It will produce about 90 jobs and anestimated $2 million annual payroll.Pocatello, which has been hit by economic setbacks in recent years, wants the facility, and Board of Correction members said community support is a major factor.
The city offered three possible sites, but one is on a hillside, which would present construction problems, and another is too small, in a fairly dense light industrial area and sits atop an old auto wrecking yard.
The 72-acre Philbin Road site doesn't have those drawbacks, but is in an area with serious air pollution problems, downwind from the FMC and Simplot phosphate plants in Power County.
The Correction Board hopes to make a decision at its Jan. 11 meeting. Pocatello has been given a deadline of Jan. 7 to come up with a suitable site. The board also has looked at a 600-acre parcel in the Nampa area near the Idaho State School and Hospital.
Pocatello has been on a "non attainment" list because of air pollution, but Mayor Peter Angstadt said the Philbin site is outside the problem area. "Secondly, both FMC and Simplot are working to bring their emissions into compliance with a state mandate.
"That should be accomplished by September, well before the prison is scheduled to open," he said.
FMC officials dispute that inmate health would be damaged from emissions from their phosphate plant.
The plant was cited for six violations of air quality last year, but has signed an agreement with the state for what company officials call "significant long-term solutions."
"FMC is investing millions of dollars to comply with the state's requirements and when we are done, nearly 80 percent of the visual emissions will be eliminated," said FMC spokesman Mike Smith.
Angstadt said he was aware Pocatello faces a major deadline, but said he hopes to resolve the problems and win the prison site.