Posted: Mar 16, 2012 5:55 PM by Lacey Steele
Fort Lyon is slated to receive $5 million from the mortgage settlement funds as announced this morning by the governor.
The news is very welcome to the small community of Las Animas.
As we've been reporting, the closure of the prison has forced some 200 employees to commute, some as many as two hours away.
The prison was the second largest employer in Bent County, and had the highest paying jobs in the region.
Friday we went to Las Animas to see how locals feel about the possibility of turning the prison into housing for veterans.
"We determined that the veteran services opportunity was something we were very interested in last year when they announced the closure of Fort Lyon," said Commissioner Bill Long of Bent County.
"We would love for it to be any kind of program for veterans or a health care facility because we love the veterans in this area," said Kathleen Tomlin, who is a former employee of Fort Lyon. "This area is saturated with veterans."
But the reach will go beyond Bent County.
"This facility will serve the state of Colorado as well as neighboring states," said Long.
The process will begin in each veteran's hometown.
"If they're identified as a homeless veteran in need, they will work with local folks, and then they will be moved to Fort Lyon for up to a two year period," said Long. "Then they will be offered permanent housing once they return to their home community."
Kathleen Tomlin not only worked at Fort Lyon... her father and father-in-law were both veterans.
She believes using the facility as housing for veterans would be beneficial to the community.
"It's near and dear to a lot of our hearts," said Tomlin. "Some are third generation people that worked at Fort Lyon. It brought in all kinds of professional people for the professional services that enhanced the community and the county. Any way you look at it it's positive."
However, Long says more funding is still needed.
"If the additional funding sources fall into place, it will be a veterans transitional housing facility," said Long.
Long adds the funds announced today from the mortgage settlement are critical in helping the project along.
A timeline for the project hasn't been set yet because more funding is needed; however, Commissioner Long hopes it will begin sometime this year.