Just a few days after the historic same sex marriage bill passed, Governor Andrew Cuomo has a new top priority; prison closures. It's an issue that could have a major effect on the North Country and as our Brian Dwyer reports, lawmakers are worried the Governor's upcoming announcement won't be good news.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. -- "Literally the next week or so."
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Talk 1300 in Albany telling Fred Dicker on the 'Live from the State Capitol' show, he's about ten days away from announcing what prisons will be shut down.
"We were a little busy the past few weeks and the legislature is now obviously out of session so we can turn to some more organizational matters,” Cuomo said. "This is at the top of the list."
Cuomo hopes to save the state big bucks by closing about 3,700 beds. A plan he's been very tight-lipped about since it was revealed back in February.
"I think it's about time the decision be made,” State Assemblywoman Addie Russell said. "We had an awful lot of people whose lives are kind of up in the air at this point."
It's believed to get to 3,700; about six prisons would need to close. In the North Country that has many worried about Watertown's Dry Hill prison and the Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.
"It’s people's lives and families we're talking about. Today you're working in Watertown and August 1st you're working at Sing Sing,” N.Y.S. Corrections Lieutenants President Michael LaDue said. "You have to have lodging. You have to have transportation back and forth. You have to make sure your family is okay here. You can't just uproot your residence here and in sixty days be there."
Many people believe Cuomo has already decided on which prisons will close and he's just finalizing plans to announce them. Assemblywoman Russell is very concerned, but says she has reason to hold some hope.
"I have supported the Governor in many of his policy initiatives over the last several weeks," she said. "Hopefully that will have some sway with him as well."
Back during the budget process, Cuomo announced any area with a closure would see a $10 million check for re-development, but North Country lawmakers say that doesn't offset what the prisons actually bring to the area.
It's believed the closures will save New York State about $72 million in this year's budget and $112 million next year.
LaDue says he's concerned that even if North Country prisons are saved this year, that they could go right back on the block next year.