UPDATE: Wilton supervisor vows to fight prison closure
Wilton Supervisor Art Johnson doesn't plan on rolling over in the wake of today's announcement from the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision that it will close Mount McGregor prison next year.
"I'm not going to give up," he said, promising to work with state legislators to prevent the scheduled closure, which is supposed to go into effect on July 26, 2014.
Johnson noted that a few years ago local and state officials were able to work together to prevent the closure of the medium security facility, but the threat of closure has always been looming. In 2009, the 300-bed minimum security facility in Wilton, Camp McGregor, was closed.
"Obviously it is a disappointment," Johnson said of the planned closure. "It has been on the chopping block for a couple different occasions, so it's not a complete surprise"
His biggest concern was for the 320 employees at the facility, who have a year to find new jobs. The potential loss of jobs could also trickle down to have a negative impact on the town and county's economy, he said.
The release from the state says, "The closure plan proposes preventing layoffs by transitioning employees to other facilities."
Following the closure of the minimum security facility in 2009, Johnson noted that some employees found work nearby at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. For workers that will have to move for work, he said, "It's going to be tough. It's never easy for families to have to move."
If the closure does happen, Johnson hopes the site doesn't go unused, like Camp McGregor, which has been dormant for about four years. He suggested maybe a veterans hospital could be located at the medium security facility.
UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, said in a statement that the closure is a disappointment and she called on the state to execute a plan that would ensure the impacted workers find jobs and the host community isn't hurt.
"I have already been in contact with Wilton Town Supervisor Art Johnson and NYSCOPBA President Donn Rowe, and will work closely with them to make certain that the local community and correctional employees are not forgotten – and that the state makes good on what should be a promise of support and fair treatment," she said in a statement.
The DOCCS statement said in the year leading to the closing of the four prisons there will be efforts to move affected employees into other jobs. It is designed to have no layoffs.
A full story will be in the Saturday issue of the Daily Gazette
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