County leaders optimistic

ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County officials are expressing increasing optimism for the future of Moriah Shock correctional facility as they continue to lobby for its removal from the governor's list of proposed budget cuts.

Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas, chair of the Essex County Board of Supervisors, spoke at the group's regular meeting March 1 about the ongoing efforts to convince state officials not to close the facility.

Douglas joined Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava and several other local representatives at a rally in Albany Feb. 23. Douglas noted plans to return to Albany March 2. A trip to Washington, D.C., later in the month will try to enlist more help from representatives at the federal level.

"We feel we've made significant in-roads with our reps," said Douglas, noting growing support from Congressmen Bill Owens and Scott Murphy, as well as Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

County Manager Dan Palmer has also been heavily involved in the lobbying efforts. He noted how local officials are making their case through hard numbers.

"We've essentially pulled all the data we possibly could to try and show the impact that closing this facility would have," said Palmer.

Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava has also been in nearly-constant contact with state and federal representatives about the prison's future.

As of December 2009, 102 employees staffed Moriah Shock, one of four shock programs throughout the state designed to rehabilitate non-violent offenders. It is one of Essex County's largest employers.

"I think one of the most striking things we were able to show is how those 102 jobs represent one percent of our non-farm workforce," Palmer said, adding that the same percentage would equate to more than 76,000 jobs in New York City.

Palmer noted that Essex County, being wholly within the Adirondack Park, does not have the same ability to bring new employers into the region and would have difficulty getting business to move into a potentially abandoned Moriah Shock facility.

"They chose this area as the Adirondack Park," Palmer said, "and they do have some responsibility to remember the importance of jobs in this area."

The board unanimously approved spending $3,800 to hire an economics consultant, Colin Reed, to conduct an economic impact study on Moriah Shock. The study is expected to be completed before the end of the week.

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