By DENISE A. RAYMO Press-Republican
---- — CHATEAUGAY — A task force meets today to begin plotting a strategy to protect Chateaugay Correctional Facility from planned closure next year.
Ten community leaders will gather at 4 p.m. at the Town Office to formulate ideas to retain the 111 jobs at the medium-security prison.
Task force members include Chateaugay Town Supervisor Don Bilow, Town Council members Greg Janisewski and Bill Trombly, Chateaugay Village Mayor Jason LaPlante, Deputy Mayor Bob Bessette and Franklin County Legislature Chairman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay).
Bilow said the initial meeting will be an organizational one, where members will hear ideas from each other.
Subsequent sessions will be held and, after plans become more firm, the task force plans to meet with Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) to get their help in persuading Albany to spare the facility.
“The plan is to gather information and to keep lobbying the legislature and the governor to keep the prison open,” Bilow said.
The more than 200 inmates housed at the facility off Route 11 are parole violators with short prison terms left to serve.
Chateaugay is one of four state prisons targeted for closure on July 26, 2014, in a plan announced in late July by the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
The closures, which also include Monterey Shock in Schuyler County, Butler Correctional Facility in Wayne County and Mt. McGregor Correctional Facility in Saratoga County, are expected to save the state $30 million.
Officials say the 111 employees at the Chateaugay jail will be absorbed into other area prisons so no jobs will be lost.
Jones, himself a correction officer, said a letter-writing campaign will be among the efforts launched so residents can express to elected leaders what the loss of the prison would do to the community.
“We’ve got to get the word out for people to do that,” he said, “and we’re going to have signs and T-shirts and things like that to put the word out about the impact.”
But the biggest hammer Chateaugay believes it can use to beat back closure is the financial strain it would have, he said.
“It would be devastating, and that will speak volumes,” Jones said, adding that payroll information, vendor purchases and other sources will be tapped to paint the complete picture.
“It’s going to take a lot of groundwork,” he said, and a professional may have to be brought in to “make sure we have solid numbers on what the economic impact would be.”
The planned Chateaugay closure would be the third correctional-facility loss in the region since 2009, when Camp Gabriels in the Town of Brighton was shuttered, followed in 2011 by the shutdown of Lyon Mountain Correctional in the Town of Dannemora.
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