One feels getting rid of its prison will be better for the economy while the other said its prison is home to hundreds of jobs.
NORCO, Calif. (KABC) -- Two Inland Empire cities on opposite sides of Riverside County are joining forces to lobby politicians in Sacramento to make changes to their plans for state prison facilities located in their city limits.
The city of Blythe wants the state to allow their prison to remain open. The city of Norco wants its facility shut down.
"When we look at [the California Rehabilitation Center] and what it is right now, it was never really intended to be a prison," said Norco Mayor Robin Grundmeyer, who said that when the facility was first built in the 1920s, it was built as a resort known as The Norconian.
"It was a luxury resort for some of Hollywood's most famous actors and the movers and shakers of that time," said Grundmeyer, who is part of an effort to get the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow the property to be returned to local control and transformed back into a resort hotel.
"During its glory days, it was really one of those places where people could come and relax and just have the very best service and accommodations here again out of the hustle and bustle of the city," said Grundmeyer. "It started out as a resort here in the community, and Norco would really like to have that asset back and have that area be an economic driver for our community again."
But while the state announced in late 2022 that it would be closing down part of the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, there are no plans to give or sell the property to the city.
At the same time, one of the properties on the state's list to shut down is the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe. Officials there are urging the state to allow the facility to remain open as it's the second largest employer in Blythe with about 850 employees.
"These jobs cannot be absorbed by other businesses or institutions locally," said Blythe Mayor Joey DeConinck during a news conference held virtually last month. "The closure will force these employees to relocate, causing a ripple effect across every aspect of our community and economy."
According to a news release issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in December 2022, the decision to close Chuckawalla Valley State Prison and deactivate certain facilities at six other prisons, including the one in Norco, was with an eye toward fiscal responsibility.
"CDCR's leadership carefully evaluated the options for prison closures... and took into account several factors including cost to operate, impact of closure on the surrounding communities and the workforce; housing needs for all populations; long-term investments in state-owned and operated correctional facilities; public safety and rehabilitation; and durability of the state's solution to prison overcrowding."