Billings Gazette 
Friday, April 24, 2009
Economic development officials in Hardin are looking at the soon-to-close detention facility in Guantanamo Bay as a possible fix for the jail sitting empty in Hardin.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order Jan. 22 to close the Guantanamo detention facilities in Cuba where hundreds of enemy combatants have been held since 2002. The closure is to occur in a year, during which time remaining detainees must be returned to their home countries or detained elsewhere.
Meanwhile, a 460-bed detention facility sits empty in Hardin. Built by Two Rivers Authority, the city’s economic development arm, the facility was meant to bring economic development to Hardin by creating more than 100 high-paying jobs.
While leaders continue to look for contracts to open the jail, which was completed in 2007, people in Hardin have approached Two Rivers executive director Greg Smith saying they have the answer: Get the contract to hold those prisoners from Guantanamo.
Smith said he started looking into the process to contract – which still isn’t clear – and has talked to other possible players, including federal agencies and staffs of the Montana congressional delegation.
It’s also not yet clear which agency would operate the facility that ends up holding the detainees.
The Hardin City Council voted Tuesday to support Two Rivers’ efforts.