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Chateaugay Correctional Facility to close in July

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CHATEAUGAY — Funding to maintain the Chateaugay Correctional Facility past its scheduled July 26 closing date was not included in the state budget approved by the Legislature Monday.

Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, heard the news Sunday that the facility would not be in the state’s budget, and said it was tough to hear.

“I am extremely disappointed that it is not part of the budget,” he said. “It is a grave mistake not having it. We have worked very hard to try and keep the facility.”

Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, 115th district, said she spoke on the floor Monday during the voting session on the budget to make one last effort to get state officials to change their minds about the prison. She pointed out that 111 jobs would be lost in the town of Chateaugay if the closure happens.

“I think it is a bad decision on the part of the state,” Ms. Duprey said. I have reflected and I am not sure if there was more we could have done to try and save it.”

Local officials lobbied lawmakers, created a fact book showing the impact of the closing and held rallies protesting the planned shuttering. Unions representing state workers mounted an advertising blitz criticizing the state’s decision.

Chateaugay Town Supervisor Donald Bilow said he is devastated by the prison closing, having thought there was a chance to save it. The focus now is to find a way to reuse the facility, he said. State efforts to develop new uses for prisons, however, can be lengthy, he said.

“By the time (state officials) get around to selling them, there’s not a lot to sell,” Mr. Bilow said. “We’ll work with our representatives to see if we can come up with something. It’s too valuable of an asset to let it fall down.”

Reuse ideas are floating around, but the community has “a lot of work to do,” Mr. Bilow said. Locals cannot assess the prison because they’re not allowed in, he said.

State Sen. Betty Little also was dismayed.

“The site will be designated a START-UP NY tax-free zone and economic development funding made available to attract private-sector investment for the facility,” she said in a statement. “But that does not mitigate the immediate economic impact the closure will have on the community.”

More than 75 percent of the 111 employees at the facility live in Chateaugay or nearby, and the facility provides roughly $5.8 million annually in employee salaries.

Employees of the facility can transfer to other facilities. Brenda Brue, nurse for Chateaugay Correctional Facility, said the prison is down to about 17 inmates.

According to a news release from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, since 1999, the prison population in New York has declined by almost 24 percent, from a high of 71,600 to about 54,600.

By eliminating Chateaugay and the other three facilities — Monterey Shock in Schuyler County, Butler Correctional in Wayne County and Mount McGregor in Saratoga County — the state will save $30 million annually, according to the release.

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