... 8_0_10_0_M

Construction of detention center fuels economic boom
Valley Morning Star

RAYMONDVILLE — Like Roy Fifer, workers were tucking themselves into motel beds at about 2 p.m. Friday after working the night shift at the site of what will be Texas’ largest detention center for undocumented immigrants.

“They’ve got a lot of good restaurants here,” said Fifer, a general contractor from Kellerton, Iowa.

In this small farm town, workers busy building the $60.6 million detention center are driving a business boom.

Since July 3, Fifer and his family have been living at Antler’s Inn, a motel just south of the construction site where he’s building the nylon-covered domes that will hold as many as 2,000 undocumented immigrants.

When he doesn’t go to the town to eat at Raymondville’s restaurants, he shops at a new Wal-Mart Superstore down the road, Fifer said.

“The town I come from has about 200 people, so it’s something to have a Wal-Mart a half mile away,” Fifer said as he lay in bed.

At Antler’s Inn, workers have booked about 75 percent of the motel’s 32 rooms, said Darshna Bhakta, a desk clerk there.

“Obviously it’s a boost,” she said. “It’s been a while since we’ve been busy like this. We have people staying for a long period.”

At Wal-Mart, construction crews have boosted sales by as much as 20 percent, said Frank Alvarez, an assistant manager.

“It’s driving business,” Alvarez said. “We’ve been getting a lot more customers. The workers will cash their checks here and spend some of it in the store.”

Last month, Willacy County commissioners entered into a two-year contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Se-curity to build the detention center.

On the 53-acre construction site, Hale Mills Construction has about 250 workers on the project that’s projected to be completed by Sept. 21, said Roy Villarreal, a Raymondville resident who’s the project’s assistant superintendent.

“We’re feeding off these people,” said Jackie Roberson, Raymondville’s economic development manager. “It’s really good for the city. They’re buying locally. We’re going to see increased sales tax revenues.”

Near the construction site, Kevin Patel told a truck driver to drive to Harlingen for a motel room because his rooms were booked.

“They’re building a prison,” Patel told the trucker. “There’s a lot of work going on.”

At America’s Best Value Inns and Suites, kitchenettes help book the motel’s 40 rooms, Patel said after the trucker drove off.

“It’s a big boom,” Patel said. “I’m very thankful to the government that they chose this site. They’re bringing a lot of workers to stay in the hotels. They love it, since we have kitchenettes because they get tried of eating fast food.”

Posted on Jul 29, 06 | 12:00 am