Ogdensburg City Council calls on state to keep St. Lawrence County prisons open
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – Ogdensburg City Council is asking the state to keep St. Lawrence County’s three prisons open.
The state had empowered former Governor Andrew Cuomo to close as many New York State prisons as chooses with little notice. Although Cuomo is now gone from office, Gov. Kathy Hochul has inherited that ability.Since taking office Hochul has not discussed the issue publicly, so which prisons and how many will be on the chopping block this year remains unknown, but it wasn’t so long ago that one of Ogdensburg’s prisons was slated for closure.
In 2010 Governor David A. Paterson planned to close Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.
The announcement prompted a massive community-wide effort to halt the effort led by then-St. Lawrence Newspapers Publisher Chuck Kelly, who died in 2018.
Kelly led a task force and worked closely with state representatives to keep the prison open. Events were held across the county and in Albany with calls to save the prison.
When Andrew M. Cuomo made his initial run for the governor’s seat he did so with a promise that Ogdensburg’s prisons would remain open as long as he was in office, a promise he’s kept.
At the time, the task force argued that the Ogdensburg prisons operated far more efficiently than many other state prisons and pointed out how important the prisons are to the local economy.
Currently, the state facilities are among the biggest employers in the county.
In 2020 Ogdensburg passed a similar resolution, which stated that the three facilities in the county provide nearly $100 million in payroll as well as 1,000 jobs.
“Employees of these correctional facilities reside in Ogdensburg and throughout the North Country, make purchases here, and support our local businesses, hospitals and schools, thereby contributing to the local economy and making our region a better place to live and raise a family."
City officials also pointed out that other areas of the state offer more opportunity for adaptive reuse of closed facilities due to higher property values and more commercial activity. That’s something Deputy Mayor John Rishe said should be factored into any state decision.
Similar sentiments were echoed on Tuesday at the council meeting.
Council briefly debated if it was better to remain quiet rather than draw attention to it, but Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly asked how the state would know the concerns if they weren’t brought forward.
Mayor Ron McDougal of Gouverneur forwarded the resolution to the City.
NYS Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association President Michael Powers sits on Ogdensburg City Council. He said he fully supported the measure.
The resolution passed unanimously.