By Camaron Abundes
FORT STOCKTON- Nearly $500,000 dollars. City and county leaders in Fort Stockton say it's a small price to pay to ensure their largest employeer keeps its doors open.
"The state is the biggest employer in Ft. Stockton. Right now they have over 500 employees on their staff and it was very important that we kept that here," Pecos County Judge Joe Shuster said.
There is still a little work left to be completed on the new B.O.Q. or Bachelor's Officers Quarters. Workers will soon put down grass and bring in furniture to the 40 person dormitory style living area. Men and women will be separated and the rooms house two correctional guards each.
City and county leaders feared without the living quarters both the Fort Stockton and Lynaugh Units would close due to staffing shortages.
"It was crucial." Assistant Warden Eric Guerrero said the B.O.Q. was needed as a recruitment tool.
Officials say at the height of the oil boom in 2008 many prison guards left to work in the oil field and housing shortages made it difficult to recruit guards from other areas. Guards working in prisons in El Paso would drive in to work on their days off but had few options for housing.
The prison yard staff withered to less than 50 percent at both facilities and at the Lynaugh Unit prison officials were forced to shut down an entire prison wing.
"It's been vacant for over a year. Our agency is now going to repopulate that facility to a maximum facility of 1300 offenders," Guerrero said.
Since the boom went bust, both prison units are almost back to having a full staff. Judge Joe Shuster says the added housing was still a good investment because many guards continue to drive in from other areas. Plus he says there are talks about using the area as a training base for guards from around the state because of the added housing.