CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced Friday the state has decided not to pursue the former Sugar Grove Naval Base in Pendleton County for a women’s prison, but instead will focus more on a possible site in Mason County.
“The (financial) numbers just really dictated that Mason County was a better site overall for the state, in terms of how to address some that female inmate population,” Tomblin administration Communications Director Chris Stadelman said.
The federal government offered to transfer ownership of Sugar Grove to the state at no cost but the Tomblin administration calculated it would take approximately $19 million to convert it to a female prison with annual operating costs of up to $16 million. Converting the former National Guard Armory in Point Pleasant would cost $8 million with $4 million annually to run it. The site is just a few miles from the state prison for women at Lakin.
“We’ll have some conversations with local (Mason County) officials, with local residents and we still need to do some due diligence on what it would actually take to transfer that property,” Stadelman said.
“The female inmate population is our fastest growing segment in West Virginia,” Gov. Tomblin said in a news release. “This plan provides the most cost-effective means of managing that growth.”
Some Pendleton County residents were hoping Tomblin would take the Sugar Grove offer. They are concerned about employment that’s been lost with the decommissioning of the naval base. The governor will work with other parties interested in the facility, Stadelman said.
“We want to make sure that that facility does continue to drive that economy. In the end, it just ended up being cost prohibitive for the state to look at that for a full-scale female prison operation,” Stadelman said.