Mich. Town May Welcome Guantanamo Detainees The Obama administration is considering moving detainees from Cuba to facilities in the U.S., including a maximum-security prison in Standish, Mich., that is slated to close. City Manager Michael Moran says the economic benefits of keeping the prison open are enormous, and the response in his community has been positive.
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Mich. Town May Welcome Guantanamo Detainees

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Mich. Town May Welcome Guantanamo Detainees

Mich. Town May Welcome Guantanamo Detainees

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in Washington.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand in California.

President Obama has said he wants to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by January. What to do with the 229 prisoners? Well, that's a big question. Few members of Congress want them in their districts.

BLOCK: For now, Congress has blocked spending to transfer the prisoners to the U.S. An Obama administration task force is expected to make its recommendations this month. One place believed to be under consideration, a maximum security prison in Standish, Michigan.

BRAND: That's a small town just north of Saginaw. The prison in Standish is set to close and take with it 300 jobs. The town hopes to get some of California's prison overflow to keep the prison open. It also is open to taking Guantanamo detainees, says Michael Moran, the city manager of Standish.

Mr. MICHAEL MORAN (Standish City Manager): It was something that we discussed several weeks ago before we were even told about Guantanamo. We had community meetings, and it was mentioned there, and I mentioned it to them as something that might be a possibility. And the reaction from the group of people that were there, as well as people who I've talked to on the street in Standish itself, were - was very positive.

BLOCK: Any negative? Any questions? Any doubts? Any fears?

Mr. MORAN: No. As a matter of fact, none.

BLOCK: And how many people did you talk to?

Mr. MORAN: We had a group of probably 400 people at one of our meetings that we talked to. It was...

BLOCK: So it's a sizable portion, almost half of Standish?

Mr. MORAN: Yeah, that's right. So we had that many there. In the church, where we had a meeting, we had a press conference/rally. And then a few weeks after that, we also had a candlelight service, which was probably about 300 people at that time. And again, Guantanamo was mentioned as a possibility, something that we would at least let people know that we are willing to take those kinds of prisoners.

And, in fact, one gentleman got up and made the suggestion himself as well. And it was treated respectfully, and there was no negative response.

BLOCK: What's in it for Standish to have this prison here and to house terrorism suspects?

Mr. MORAN: Well, I think obviously, the economic issue is part of it, but also having people in our community. We would welcome new correctional people and their families. We would presume that a lot of our people would still remain working at the prison and be retrained, certified, whatever is necessary to maintain the prison.

BLOCK: In terms of dollar amounts, what does that mean to you?

Mr. MORAN: Well, as far as the city is concerned, we're looking at $36,000 a month that we receive just for water and sewer that we provide to the prison. If we lose that water and sewer revenue, that's about 25 percent of our budget.

BLOCK: And you're also losing some of the tax money and the assorted other money that people who work at the prison provide the community.

Mr. MORAN: Yeah. Obviously, our retailers and our churches and our restaurants and so on are frequented by the people that work at the prison, including their families. So I couldn't tell you what the impact on our revenue would be for that. Its - it'd be astronomical.

BLOCK: Would you have to do anything to the prison to change it in any way?

Mr. MORAN: I don't believe we would. However, that would be something that would be up to the federal government, as far as their correctional people were concerned. I'm sure they have additional standards. But right now, we are at the highest maximum security in Michigan.

BLOCK: Michael Moran is the city manager for Standish, Michigan, reportedly one of the U.S. cities under consideration to house the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Moran, thank you very much.

Mr. MORAN: You're welcome. Thank you.

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