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Camp Gabriels off the chopping block

BRIGHTON Residents of the Tri-Lakes region breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week when Sen. Elizabeth Little (R - Queensbury) announced funding for Camp Gabriels had been put into the state budget. Under a dreary, rain-filled sky in Albany, news was bright for residents of Brighton and surrounding communities as Little made the announcement at a March 31 rally for the four state prisons threatened with closure by former Gov. Eliot Spitzers budget. All four correctional facilities slated for closure will stay open as part of a budget agreement worked out by the senate, assembly and governor. Final details of the budget were continuing debate in the state legislature. As of press time, no budget had been approved. Little credited the correctional officers and the local community for helping her and Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward make a compelling case to keep the facility open. Little stated the decision preserves 136 jobs and ensures a vital economic force remains in the community. This has been a true team effort, said Little. I have heard from hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the North Country stressing the importance of keeping Camp Gabriels open. There are dozens of good reasons for Gabriels to remain open and I am grateful that this new Paterson administration listened to our arguments and agreed. For Peter Martin of Brighton, the news was a relief on multiple levels not only is he town supervisor, but hes also worked as a corrections officer at Camp Gabriels for 22 years. Martin said the facility remained open because of support from local representatives, and residents of the North Country. The town of Brighton would like to thank especially Sen. little, Assemblywomen Janet Duprey and Teresa Sayward, and everyone involved in keeping the facility open, because without them it wouldn't have happened, said Martin. Camp Gabriels is one of the two largest employers in the town of Brighton. For him, the worst part of the problem had been the uncertainty of the facilitys fate. Saranac Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sylvie Nelson was thrilled with the news. Obviously, it would have been devastating if it had been closed because of lost jobs, said Nelson. Aside from lost jobs, Nelson explained, there would have been other areas impacted. The inmate population provides plenty of service hours to neighboring communities. The chambers economic impact of the jail showed the facility generated $41 million annually. Nelson said the chamber and other concerned parties would need to take a look at the future of the jail. A proactive approach would be required, she added. Once it's on the chopping block, it has a tend to come back. We have to be very vigilant to make sure it gets included, said Nelson. Martin said he hoped additional programming for inmates would help keep the facility open. He pledged to work with Little and other leaders on that plan. As a correction officer, Martin said the experience had taught him and some of his coworkers a lesson. The one thing you've learned is you can't plan on being in one place for your whole career, because there's the possibility that any jail can close any time, said Martin.

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