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Communities around Chateaugay prison eligible for state economic development dollars

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CHATEAUGAY - Communities impacted by the closing of the Chateaugay Correctional Facility are eligible for a still-undetermined amount of a $32-million fund set aside by the state in what is being called an economic transformation program, according to members of the County of Franklin Industrial Development Agency.

The Empire State Development Corp. does not have any eligibility criteria for the fund as of yet.

IDA Assistant Treasurer Timothy Burpoe told board members that Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones of Chateaugay had alerted him that the Chateaugay prison, one of four state prisons slated for closure July 26, will join the other three in competing for the economic development aid.

“It’s a tall order to figure out what to do with a facility that size,” Industrial Development Agency CEO John Tubbs said. He noted the facility is made up of separate buildings, each with its own water and sewer service, much like a business park.

“It’s not just up to us, but up to everybody” to explore options, he added.

Mr. Tubbs said assistance from the newly-launched Start Up New York tax-free business zone development program and the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program would also be sought. IDA members are scheduled to attend a meeting with potential Canadian investors in Ottawa, Ont., next month.

Among the ideas floated for the soon-to-close prison are a business park, a replacement for the existing Franklin County Jail or a relocated North Country Community College campus.

Since the state made the closure announcement last July, local and state legislators, along with concerned citizens, began an uphill fight to keep the prison doors open, emphasizing the huge impact the loss of jobs will have on the local economy.

When this year’s approved state budget was detailed March 31, however, Chateaugay’s prison was no longer a line item.

After a gradual removal of inmates and employees, the prison will close for good July 26, and a total of 111 jobs will be lost.

The state blames the prison closure on a decreasing prison population.

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 approximately 54,600 incarcerated today. “At the end of 1996, there were 24,085 drug offenders in custody. By comparison, on Dec. 31, 2012, that number reached a new low of 7,053, which represents a reduction of 71 percent,” the release said.

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

Staff writer Whitney Randolph contributed to this report.

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