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Chateaugay Task Force Committee Working To Publish Booklet

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CHATEAUGAY - The Chateaugay Task Force Committee has received hundreds of letters from individuals and businesses people, as well as 30 letters from municipalities in Franklin and surrounding counties, supporting the Chateaugay Correctional Facility.

“We have resolutions from every town and every village in Franklin County, plus a couple of the surrounding counties,” said Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay.

The committee has also started working together to pull information for its “Save Chateaugay Task Force Booklet.”

The booklet, which will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers, will contain statistics and information about the economics of Chateaugay and the facility, including facts about the community and Franklin County, according to Brenda Brue, a nurse who has been at the facility for the past 12 years.

She said about 200 booklets will need to be produced before January when legislators, the governor and the Department of Corrections representatives are back in session.

Currently the cost estimated per booklet is $2.37, according to Brue, which would amount to $474.

She said the $250 raised at the rally will be used toward the purchase of the booklets. The rest will be raised in future fundraisers.

Members of the committee discussed a rough draft Thursday of some of the pages that the booklet will tentatively contain.

Ms. Brue said the committee will “pick and choose” what they would like to put in the booklet before it goes to the printers.

One fact found by committee members states that in 1990 the New York State Department of Corrections opened a unit in Chateaugay, which generated local jobs and “created an economic boost,” according to the collected information.

“[It’s] capable of being re-configured and expanded, if necessary,” the information said, adding that the facility is on 100 acres of land.

The rough draft also mentions the benefits of the Return Parole Violator program that the facility offers.

In 2005, the Chateaugay facility became strictly a repeat parole violators facility, according to Jimmy Lord, a member of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association and an officer at CCF for the past nine years.

In September, Mr. Lord said the program at CCF can be more effective than those in larger facilities because it can hold a maximum of 240 inmates, with less temptations and distractions.

“[CCF] gets them away from the city and that gang mentality and peer pressure,” Ms. Brue said in September.

Mr. Lord previously mentioned that more time in jail costs the taxpayers and state more money to house and feed the inmates.

According to the information he gathered, cost per parole violator inmate is $137,000.

However, Cheryl Poupore, one of the calculation clerks at the facility for the past 12 years, said she is unaware of the cost per inmate at CCF.

Ms. Poupore was told to send a Freedom of Information Act request and has yet to hear a response.

But Ms. Poupore created an “economic impact” page that cited Malone Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Hugh Hill’s presentation of the outlook of Franklin County’s future, based on information from the Cornell University Program on Applied Demographics.

According to Cornell demographics, property sales have decreased by 27.2 percent in the first two quarters of 2013 compared to 2012’s first two quarters. In comparison, nearby Clinton and Essex counties have increased by 14.2 and 29.73 percent, respectively.

According to the figures, even though sales tax collections have increased in the county over the past three years, when these figures are adjusted for inflation - meaning adjusted to the cost of products increasing - sales tax revenue is decreasing.

St. Lawrence, Clinton and Essex counties are all seeing an increase in sales tax, according to Cornell’s data.

Businesses will also feel the affects of the closure.

According to the committee’s data from the 2010 census, there are 34 businesses in Chateaugay.

CCF accounts for a $5.8 million annual payroll, according to Ms. Poupore.

Between the payroll at the facility and the payroll of the businesses, a total of $10.589 million of annual payroll is generated throughout Chateaugay, according to the data.

Mr. Jones drove home the effects the closure would have on Franklin County as a whole at a rally last month.

“Franklin County per capita income is $19,807. We’re the second lowest per capita income in New York State,” Mr. Jones said.

He also noted Franklin County’s unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, adding that there were only a few counties in the state with higher unemployment rates than Franklin County.

He added the impact will be immediate if the facility closes.

“The Chateaugay village has a contract with the Department of Corrections for $53,000 a year to run the wastewater treatment facility,” he said, adding that with the closure residents would see a $135 increase a year in their annual bills if the facility closes.

Mr. Jones said the committee will still continue to push for letters – “everyone’s still working.”

Currently the inmate population is down to 131 with 91 staff left at the correctional facility, according to Ms. Brue.

The Chateaugay Correctional Facility is slated to close its doors on July 26, 2014.

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