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March 1, 2014

Chateaugay prison top topic at forum

PLATTSBURGH — North Country state lawmakers continue the argument to keep Chateaugay Correctional Facility open, but plans for life without the major employer are also starting to unfold.

“We still will fight to keep it open, but we also have to approach it from the point of what are we going to do with it if it does close,” Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) said at Friday’s North Country Chamber of Commerce

Legislative Forum breakfast.

“We need to know what the facility can be used for, how much help we are going to get, and there are a whole bunch of questions that need to be answered.”

111 JOBS AT RISK

State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) and Assemblyman Daniel Stec (R-Queensbury) were the featured speakers at the forum held before a packed room at the Holiday Inn in Plattsburgh.

The trio answered questions about myriad topics, but the pending closure of the Chateaugay prison was a highlight of the discussion.

The closure of the facility is slated for July 25. In jeopardy are the jobs of 111 people with an annual payroll of about $5.1 million.

The state has set aside $24 million to aid communities across the state dealing with prison closures.

Jones said if final efforts to keep the facility open fail, assistance from the state will be key as the community prepares for the transition to life without the prison, which opened in 1990.

“It will be critical because we have to somehow replace those 111 jobs and $5.1 million payroll,” he said.

‘NORTH COUNTRY FILLS NEED’

State Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) said downstate lawmakers do not understand the importance that prisons play in the North Country. She said the loss of 111 jobs in Chateaugay is tantamount to Brooklyn losing more than 5,000 jobs.

“Corrections is a way of life for us,” she said.

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