ELIZABETHTOWN - Local representatives at the state and county level are up in arms following an announcement by Governor David Paterson to close the Moriah Shock incarceration program.
Paterson announced his plan to close the facility Jan. 19, part of his proposed 2010-2011 Executive Budget that seeks to reduce state spending by $5.5 billion.
Moriah supervisor Tom Scozzafava relayed news of the facility's closure to the Essex County Personnel Committee at their Jan. 19 meeting and urged other county leaders to take action.
"I don't need to tell any of my fellow supervisors the economic impact this is going to have in this community," said Scozzafava.
More than 100 people are employed at Moriah Shock, which opened in 1989 at the site of a former mining camp on Fisher Hill road. It uses a para-military approach to rehabilitate inmates who are serving time for non-violent crimes.
"To be frank, if that facility is closed, those buildings are going to remain vacant for the next 50 years," said Scozzafava. "They let our bridge fall apart, and now they're going to take away the biggest drivers of our local economy."
St. Armand supervisor Joyce Morency likened the proposal to the last year's closing of Camp Gabriels, just outside Saranac Lake. Facilities there have remained vacant since July 2009.
Other supervisors affirmed Scozzafava's claim that the effect of the facility's closure would be far-reaching, if only because of its 171 inmates, most of whom regularly support public works projects as part of work crews.
"We've come to rely on using them to cut the cost of government to the local taxpayers," said Westport supervisor Dan Connell, noting how Moriah Shock work crews put in hundreds of man-hours at the Essex County Fairgrounds each year.
"The town of Wilmington uses those crews customarily, especially for our parks," said Wilmington supervisor Randy Preston, referring to the state's decision as the latest in a recent string of incompetence. "It's just one unbelievable mistake after another they continue to make."