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Wheelwright officials prepare for a prison shutdown

By: Whitney Burks Email
By: Whitney Burks Email

One small eastern Kentucky town is bracing for a prison shutdown that will put a huge portion of its population out of work.

As we reported in April, the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright is closing, and as the last day approaches city officials are still wondering what will happen to their town.

It is a small mountain town with a small population of about 700, but in a few weeks nearly a quarter of those people will be jobless.

"It's going to affect everybody," said Wheelwright Mayor Andy Akers.

Otter Creek Correctional Center is closing, leaving almost 170 people wondering what will happen next.

"We had to make the tough decision to ramp down operations at the end of this contract," said Steve Owen, spokesperson for Corrections Corporation of America.

"It's going to affect not just our town but the whole area. You've got people working up there that live here, plus they trade here at the stores and restaurants," said Akers.

The mayor says it is going to affect the city's revenue too.

"It's a big concern because that's where a lot of our utilities is used and that's going to stop here shortly," said Akers.

CCA officials say they will work with employees to find transfers for them to other prisons in Kentucky or throughout the country if they choose.

"We've been working very closely with our employees to identify opportunities for them to continue their careers with cca for those that would like to," said Owen.

But the mayor says without the prison, their town could be in trouble.

"We're a small town and we have no other business or nothing up here. We've got one little gas station," said Akers.

And even though they're trying to attract new businesses, they say it's going to be a long process.

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