By ROGER AMSDEN, for the LACONIA DAILY FUN (April Fool!)
LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners have approved a plan to convert the 18,000-square-foot building which had originally been slated to become a community corrections facility into a tourist attraction which will offer guests a real-life jail experience.
The plan was approved at a special meeting of the commission Friday morning after an attempt earlier in the week to have the Belknap County Delegation reconsider the budget it approved two weeks ago failed.
"We decided that since we won't have the funds to staff it at a level which the Corrections Superintendent says is needed that we should make the best use we can of the facility," said Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy.
He said that the idea of using it as a tourist attraction came from Commissioner Hunter Taylor, who said that it would be a unique, one-of-a-kind experience for tourists to be able to spend a time inside a corrections facility where they would be kept safely under lock and key and get to experience the daily life of a prison inmate.
DeVoy said that the facility would be staffed with workers who would be limited to 29 hours per week so they wouldn't qualify for health insurance benefits and whose top rate of pay would be $7.25 an hour or whatever the minimum wage rate is. Workers would also be required to pay for their own uniforms and for meals.
It was suggested that inmates of the current jail who are slated for work release might get special consideration as workers at the tourist attraction in order to provide for a realistic atmosphere.
Commissioners said that the financial projections show the facility would generate as much as $365,000 a year in revenue at an 85 percent occupancy rate. If it fails to attain the expected return, taxpayers will be asked to make voluntary contributions or to volunteer their time as an unpaid employee.
When Commissioner Glenn Warring arrived at the meeting, which was already in progress, he expressed disbelief at the proposal.
"What do you guys think this is? April Fools' Day?" asked Waring.
(YES, APRIL FOOL!!!)
If the county goes ahead with plans to convert the new jail to tourist use, visitors may find an interior much like this one, a real jail-themed restaurant in Tianjian, China. (Reuters photo)
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