Bright Horizons Weekly Update

Why Leadership?

I’m sure by now you have heard about the Knox-Haskell Rural Leadership Program.  You may be wondering, “What will I get out of it?” or “ Why take the time?”

This program is a fantastic opportunity only available in Haskell and Knox Counties.  You are meeting people in your community and neighboring community. You are networking with your city and county government. You are touring local businesses, learning about your local hospital, school system and assets around your region.

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When you finish this program, you will have gained valuable leadership skills, you will have met people from around the region, and you will know more about your community as a whole. The only way you can gain this kind of insight is to invest the time in a program like this one.

The leadership program kicks off September 23, 2016 and ends in May 2016. We will take you through a fun orientation process where you get to know the group. Our groups are usually 12-15 people.  Then, we will meet on the first Friday of each month starting in October. You will spend the morning working through valuable curriculum. Then, in the afternoon you will be on your feet and touring Haskell and Knox Counties. These tours will expose you to various topics such as economic development, agriculture, healthcare and all the things that make up the assets of a community. Each month we will alternate between Haskell and Knox County. Not only will you learn about your county, but you will also learn about your neighbors.

The DCOH is providing the tools, now we hope you will take advantage of the opportunity. We promise you won’t regret it…just ask any of our past participants.  Applications can be picked up at the DCOH office or downloaded at www.haskelltexasonline.com. For more information call the DCOH at 940.864.3424.

Haskell Representatives take on D.C. for Help with the RPDC

Haskell County and the Development Corporation of Haskell (DCOH) embarked on Washington D.C., August 17-19, 2016, in order to meet with federal officials who make decisions on placing federal detainees at the Rolling Plains Detention Center (RPDC). The facility is slated to close by end of year if additional detainees are not found to occupy the facility.

Haskell County Judge -David Davis, DCOH Executive Director - Jimi Coplen, Intergovernmental Relations Chair - Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., DCOH Board of Directors & Haskell National Bank - Randy Hise
Haskell County Judge -David Davis, DCOH Executive Director – Jimi Coplen, Intergovernmental Relations Chair – Texas Senator, Eddie Lucio, Jr., DCOH Board of Directors & Haskell National Bank VP – Randy Hise

Haskell representatives David Davis, Jimi Coplen and Randy Hise traveled to Washington D.C. and met with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Senator Ted Cruz’s office,  US Senator John Cornyn’s office, and  the US House of Representatives Randy Neugebauer’s office.

The most important meeting was with ICE officials. That is the current detainee population held at the RPDC.  The hope is that ICE could fill their new facility at Alvarado and still have enough detainees to fill the RPDC. The three ICE officials that met with the group were attentive and positive.  Each of them had visited the Haskell facility in the past and was familiar with it. They assured the group the only reason for building a new facility was logistical and to have detainees closer to the federal court in Dallas.  They said the plan was to start moving detainees around December 1, 2016. The group also discussed with ICE the vast number of detainees crossing the Texas border, but then shipped to various places around the United States. ICE officials stated they have not had enough beds in Texas to house them here. Our group assured them there were beds in Texas and soon there would be more beds in Haskell. And, Haskell would like to be considered for additional populations. They agreed to send overflow to Haskell; however, this is not enough to fill the facility. Haskell will need more than 20-40 overflows in order to keep the facility open and thriving.

The group also met with HHS. This organization places unaccompanied minors who cross the border illegally into facilities across the United States. Those minors are housed at the expense of the United States until they can go before an immigration judge.  The average stay is around 35 days.  They are later placed with a foster family. This population is housed differently than a prisoner. They are detained, but it is more of a camp-like environment, large dorms, common areas, etc. The RPDC is not set up for this type of population. The current facility would have to be extremely retrofitted to accompany them. HHS was also attentive and very gracious to hear about the Haskell facility. In order to be considered by HHC, one must submit a grant proposal and it could take up to a year before a child is placed.  This is certainly not the ideal population for the RPDC due to the configuration, but it will be taken under considered.

Haskell representatives had hoped to meet with the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) while in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday, August 18, 2016, that they would no longer be contracting with private facilities. This will be a hard hit on many Texas counties who currently house BOP prisoners. This decision does not affect ICE detainees as are in the Rolling Plains Detention Center because ICE is part of the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Justice.

Haskell representatives were not able to meet with the US Marshall Service, but did receive a phone call from them. Haskell resides in the Northern District. The acting Marshall who called was very helpful, but said they did not need any beds at this time. The group inquired about a recent article that stated the Odessa district was in need.  He told them to call that office directly to see if they would be interested in housing people in the Haskell facility.

Fortunately, Haskell was able to have congressional staff attend meetings with them. Before the group arrived, a joint letter was sent to HHS, ICE, BOP and the US Marshall Service from Texas Senator Charles Perry and Representatives James Frank and Drew Springer. This helped set the stage to get them in the door with Congressional representatives Ted Cruz, John Cornyn and Randy Neugebauer. Because it is August in Washington, only their staff was available. Haskell representatives were able to brief them on the situation, have them attend meetings with them, and they agreed to circle back with these offices in the future.

Randy Hise, Eddie Lucio, Jr, David Davis, Hannah Jaeckle (Neugebauer's office), Jimi Coplen
Randy Hise, Eddie Lucio, Jr, David Davis, Hannah Jaeckle (Neugebauer’s office), Jimi Coplen

The current RPDC jail management company, Emerald, is also actively seeking additional inmate populations for the RPDC. They are meeting with groups not associated with the federal government such as other states and various special interest groups who house prisoners. Haskell County is briefed weekly on their efforts. Emerald is  interested in staying in Haskell and running the RPDC facility as well as the new facility in Alvarado.

Haskell County and the DCOH hope this article clears up any confusion or rumors that have been floating around the community. They also want the citizens to know that no stone is being left unturned. They are working diligently on this project and will continue to do whatever it takes to keep the RPDC open. It’s a vital part of the community and will have a huge economic impact on every entity in Haskell and the general population if it were to close.

Bright Horizons Weekly Update

The Haskell Chamber of Commerce, Development Corporation and Keep Haskell Beautiful have joined forces to bring you up-to-date articles about their organization and projects.  Each week, one will write about what is going on within their organization. The goal is to keep the public aware of current projects and educate citizens about various topics.  The articles will also help to let the public know where the needs are and how to become involved in the community.

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The DCOH is hard at work helping the county secure new contracts for new prisoners at the Rolling Plains Detention Center. The DCOH is also accepting store front beautification grant applications. Those are due by September 30, 2016. Also, we are recruiting new participants to our adult leadership program. That deadline is September 1, 2016.

Heads up on the Community-Wide Garage Sale on Saturday, October 1st. This gives you plenty of time to get your garage sale items together. Come by the chamber to learn more about the Chamber’s HOT Grant Program that can help with your organization events.

Keep Haskell Beautiful (KHB) is a non-profit organization that educates and engages the citizens of Haskell to take responsibility for enhancing their community. So far KHB has held two clean-up events, one on the square and one at the park, and added two new pieces of equipment to the park. KHB hosted a volleyball tournament and commissioned the Deep Roots mural downtown. We are now in the process of putting in a sand volleyball court at the park and hope to continually add improvements to the park complex. Keep Haskell Beautiful is also in the process in starting a scholarship fund for the youth in our community.