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Food hub, meat plant among proposed ideas for closing Chateaugay Correctional Facility

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CHATEAUGAY — The Town Board and some interested community leaders discussed a few ideas for the future of the soon-to-be-closed Chateaugay Correctional Facility at the first prison reuse committee meeting Monday night.

Among the ideas being considered are a food hub and a meat processing plant, but committee members agreed it’s more likely that several types of businesses might coexist in the space.

“This is something that could be used for so many different things,” said John Tubbs, County of Franklin Industrial Development Agency chief executive officer. “It’s entirely likely that you’re going have to split it up in some fashion. It’s also possible that you’re not going to get a business that wants to buy it, that a municipal entity may take ownership of it.”

At the regular Town Board meeting later Monday evening, the board unanimously agreed to get the ball rolling by hiring a consultant to oversee the process. Last month, Bob Hest, of R.G. Hest & Associates, a Malone consulting firm, presented a proposal to assist the town with economic development activities, with a focus on reuse of the prison. The proposal includes preparation of grant applications.

All who attended the committee meeting agreed it’s time to get inside the buildings to assess their condition.

While there are no more inmates left in the facility, nearly four dozen employees still work there, basically in the process of stripping the prison down to its bare bones, according to board members.

The committee agreed to put together a list of those interested in visiting the prison some time next week. “Maybe the purpose of it might be to get a list lined up of some people who have ideas of possible uses,” said Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones.

The committee reviewed several possible funding options, but returned to the fact that a more specific plan needs to be in place to be seriously considered by any of them.

Empire State Development, a tax exempt bond-issuing state agency, likely won’t get involved in the project until after the prison closes on July 26, Mr. Jones said.

North Country Community College is tentatively going to sponsor the prison to make it eligible for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Start Up New York tax-free business zoning.

Committee members said the best ideas so far are the most obvious for the area.

“It keeps coming back to food and agriculture; it comes back to manufacturing. The place is set up beautifully like a business park with all the buildings,” Mr. Tubbs said. “The water supply is really nice. Twenty acres inside a perimeter fence is good for security, so people have been kicking around ideas like law enforcement, a specialty area, a food hub and certain types of processing of agricultural products. But it’s bigger than just about any of those things. You need a mega-manufacturer, somebody with some pretty deep pockets, to put together a plan for a park or different types of processing.”

Mr. Jones stressed that a solid business plan needs to be prepared to show agencies such as Empire State Development.

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