North Country prison closure worries residents - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

North Country prison closure worries residents

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Franklin County residents were stunned to hear the news about the Chateaugay correctional facility closing.

"That's nonsense!" said Syllvin Simard, who lives in Franklin County. "And it's not good for the region."

And regional legislators refuse to go down without a fight.

"It just seems silly to me," said Assemblywoman Janet Duprey, R-Peru. "We have something that's working, working well. They've got great staff there, so I just don't understand."

State lawmakers told the Franklin County Legislature in March that the facility was no longer being considered for closure. But now the Department of Corrections says closing down the facility, and three others, will mean a $30 million annual savings.

"You can't compare the role that Chateaugay has-- which is an important role in treating parole-violators-- to the role of Clinton correctional and upstate and Franklin and the inmates they have in those facilities," Duprey said.

The Chateaugay facility is the only parole-violators facility in the state. These facilities help offenders adjust to life in the community under parole supervision and focus on providing immediate specialized treatment and programming. There are 111 employees and a prison capacity of 240 inmates. The corrections department said in a statement there will be no layoffs, employees will be reassigned. But legislators say that doesn't justify the decision.

"If it closes, what do we do and how do we prepare to go forward? And start thinking about economic development for the community," Duprey said.

"Obviously you're talking about 111 jobs and they're not cutting them, and we thank them for that. But 111 jobs will be displaced away from the community and the economic impact alone will be devastating to the community," said Billy Jones of the Franklin County Board of Legislators.

A number of businesses told WCAX News they do receive a lot of business weekly from employees of the corrections facility. Places like Owl's Nest Pizza and others did not want to go on camera, but say they are concerned about the facility closing.

And residents like Syllvin Simard agree. He takes his family for pizza in town every couple of weeks.

"Phew... everyone is going to be affected by this, everybody. Even the people that sell pizza, the coffee shop, gas, bar," Simard said.

Legislators plan to create a proposal and present it to the governor's office and Department of Corrections hoping they can save the facility.

"We just feel being a modern facility it's a major asset obviously to the community, but moreover to New York State as a whole," Jones said.

The fight to save a prison that plays a key role in a small community and entire state.

The other three prisons are in Schuyler, Saratoga and Wayne Counties. The closures are set for July 26, 2014.

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