State says Camp Pharsalia will close in 2009

PHARSALIA – This is likely the last time the 105 employees at Camp Pharsalia will hear that the minimum security prison has one more year to stay open.

Pharsalia, along with three other prisons – Camp Gabriels, Franklin County, Camp McGregor, Saratoga County, and Hudson Correctional Facility, Columbia County – is scheduled to close in January 2009, the state Department of Correctional Services announced Friday.

The news isn’t new. Camp Pharsalia has been on the state budget’s chopping block annually for the last four years. But politicians have always been able to secure it at least one more year of funding.

“We’ve succeeded in the past,” said Senator Tom Libous (R-Binghamton), citing a strong relationship with former Gov. George Pataki. “I’m not so sure we’ll have the same success.”

Under new state corrections law created in 2005, technically there isn’t anything legislators can do this time to stop the closure since community leaders, employees, union representatives and prison administrators were notified one year in advance, said Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) spokesman Erik Kriss.

“As far as we’re concerned, this is a go,” Kriss said Friday.

A sharp decline in the prison population was cited as one of the main reasons for the closures.

DOCS also says dropping Pharsalia will result in an annual operating savings of over $8 million starting 2009-10. In all, the four closings will yield a savings of $33.5 million annually. Those savings will offset new and expensive sex offender treatment programs that will require $70 million in capital upgrades, said Kriss.

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