Camp Pharsalia gets another reprieve

NORWICH – It appears Camp Pharsalia will stay open for at least another year, state legislators confirmed Monday.

“It’s done. We did it again,” said Senator Tom Libous in a telephone interview Monday morning. “Camp Pharsalia is in good shape for another year.”

The Senate and Assembly hammered out an agreement over the weekend setting aside funds for Pharsalia (Chenango County), Camp Gabriels (Franklin County), the Hudson Correctional Facility (Columbia County) and Camp McGregor (Saratoga County) in the 2008-2009 budget, said Libous.

“The sun is shining,” said Pharsalia Corrections Officer Mike DiStefano when he heard the news from his home in Norwich, on what was an otherwise cloudy Monday. “First and foremost, we have to thank all those people in the community who supported us. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“This is one step in the right direction,” said fellow Pharsalia Corrections Officer Paul Lashway from the Capital steps in Albany, just after the official announcement was made during a 900-man rally Monday for the prisons. “We’re off the chopping block, as they say.”

Pharsalia, a minimum security work camp, has been on the state budget chopping block almost annually since 2004.

This fiscal year, former Governor Eliot Spitzer and the state Department of Correctional Services were planning to cut funding and close all four prisons in January 2009, citing a decline in the overall prison population and a need to save money for expensive sex offender mandates. Prison officials said the closures would’ve saved taxpayers $10.4 million this year, and $33.5 million starting next year.

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