CHATEAUGAY - Governor Andrew Cuomos office deems it a necessity to close prison facilities like Chateaugay Correctional Facility because it will save New York taxpayers money and because there are facilities with excess prison capacity.
We have excess prison capacity in your medium and minimum security facilities and this makes closures a necessity, Thomas Mailey, public information director for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, wrote in a letter sent to Chateaugay officials last month.
Mr. Mailey sent the letter on behalf of Gov. Cuomo and Department of Corrections Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci in response to a letter from Chateaugay Town Supervisor Don Bilow opposing the closure of the facility.
We understand the impact these decisions have on communities, like Chateaugay, but we are also charged with ensuring that state resources are effectively deployed and the closings we have announced will save New York taxpayers over $30 million annually, the letter said.
In his letter to Gov. Cuomo, Mr. Bilow raised several arguments to keep the prison open.
He noted that the natural gas line that is coming to Chateaugay would provide the facility with a low-cost energy supply.
This board strongly supported the St. Lawrence Gas pipeline project to aid in economic growth to our area, according to the towns resolution, approved in September. One of its goals was to provide affordable natural gas to the prison in Chateaugay.
Cheryl Poupore, one of the calculation clerks at the facility for the past 12 years, said the facility paid $26,516 a month for fuel oil in 2012. She noted that she sent in a request through the Freedom of Information Act to see what other facilities in New York state were paying for their fuel costs and has yet to receive any information.
The actual amount of money to be saved from a switch to natural gas was never calculated once the state announced in July that it would close the Chateaugay facility July 26, 2014, according toMs. Poupore.
But Mr. Maileys letter stated that no matter the amount of dollars saved the amount does not add up to the millions we will save taxpayers by transferring the parole violators, currently being housed at Chateaugay, into other medium security facilities that have excess prison capacity and then closing the facility.
Mr. Bilow also noted in his letter to Gov. Cuomo the economy in Chateaugay cannot afford the loss of 111 jobs –– jobs that Franklin County Board of Legislators Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, said provide $7.8 million in annual payroll.
We are a very small community with few major employers, Mr. Bilows letter stated. The entire communitys economy benefits from the money that the staff spends here and in the surrounding area [Franklin and Clinton counties].
Mr. Bilow also noted that the facility has given area youth the opportunity to stay in the north country instead of moving to another area or state to find employment.
Mr. Bilow also suggested if would be difficult to sell the facility because it is located in a an economically depressed area with low real estate values and the reuse of the buildings would be limited.
Mr. Mailey noted that members of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision are working with the Department of Civil Service, the Office of General Services and the Empire State Development Corporation to evaluate the potential sale and re-use of Chateaugay and the other three facilities.
Monterey Shock in Schuyler County, a minimum security facility, along with Butler in Wayne County and Mt. McGregor in Saratoga County –– both medium security facilities like Chateaugay –– are also supposed to close their doors on the same date.
These departments are also assisting in staff placement, according to Mr. Maileys letter. Corrections officials have promised no layoffs because of the closing, but employees at the facility would have to transfer to other prisons around the state.
In two weeks, nine officers will be transferred, leaving fewer than 100 employees at the facility, according to Ms. Poupore.
Currently there are 174 inmates, according to Brenda Brue, a nurse who has been at the facility for the past 12 years.
Ms. Poupore said there will also be a 50/50 raffle drawn every two hours. Proceeds will go toward the production of the Save Chateaugay Task Force Booklet.
The booklet, which will be sent to Gov. Cuomo and lawmakers, will contain roughly 21 pages. These pages will contain facts, statics and information about the economics of Chateaugay and the facility. It will also include facts about the community and Franklin County and the benefits of the Return Parole Violator program that the facility offers.
I think everythings falling into place, Ms. Brue said.
About 360 shirts will be handed out to those in attendance.
Food and beverages will be provided, as well a sentertainment.
For the 2012 Chateaugay village sewer bill, the facility made two payments of $26,625.
If the facility is lost, Chateaugay Deputy Mayor Bob Bessette noted sewer bills for those in the village will increase roughly $135 to keep up with the loss.