Monterey closing: Village sees new expenses
WATKINS GLEN––At the regular meeting held on Monday, Sept. 9, the board of trustees for the village of Watkins Glen unanimously passed a resolution urging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and other State leaders to reconsider the decision to close the Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility. Mayor Mark Swinnerton called the facility a “terrific program,” with “benefits for the inmates as well as the taxpayers.” He added, “shutting down Monterey will have a huge impact on many municipalities throughout the Southern Tier.”
The resolution explains that work crews from the Monterey facility provided 22,500 hours of labor for Schuyler County municipalities in 2012, “a savings to taxpayers of $391,725.” Streets superintendent Don Perry said the inmates from the facility provide a valuable service by aiding the village in brush pick up and removal, clearing out ditches, loading back hoes, putting tables away at the end of the season, and “anything you need them to do.” Swinnerton said to replace the labor provided by the facility, the village would need to hire two full time employees with benefits. “The impact on the village of Watkins Glen taxpayers alone would be a property tax rate increase of 5.45 percent,” according to the resolution. “I understand that cuts need to be made,” said Swinnerton, “but sometimes you have to look at the impact on the municipalities.”
Trustee Paul Clifford pointed out that the facility has, “the lowest return rate of any facility in the state.” He attributed this in part to the central location of the facility and the ability for families to visit and support those inmates incarcerated there. Swinnerton explained the timeline is for the facility to stop accepting new inmates after Dec. 31 of this year, and to close the facility by next July. Concluding the discussion by explaining, “Monterey employed a lot of people, provided a lot of benefits to the community, it is tragic to lose it.” There is a petition urging State officials to reconsider the decision to close the Monterey facility for residents to sign, if interested, located at the village offices.
In other business:
• The board voted to authorize Hunt Engineers to initiate a study to determine the necessity and feasibility of a third bridge over Glen Creek in the village by way of either Porter or Perry Street. The cost of the study, which will include a traffic study, will be $14,500. Trustees Tony Fraboni and Paul Clifford voted against the study while trustees Scott Gibson and Kevin Smith voted in favor, with Mayor Swinnerton casting the deciding vote. Fraboni said he did not see what a third bridge would actually accomplish. Swinnerton replied that, “the traffic is only going to increase,” and also, “if a study shows we need a new bridge, there is Federal and State money out there.”
• The village received an update letter from the consulting firm Barton & Lagoudice regarding the operation of the waste water treatment plant and compliance with the Department of Environmental Conservation Consent Order under which the plant is currently operating. The letter outlines various issues and problems which need to be addressed regarding the plant. Mayor Swinnerton said he would plan a meeting between the plant operators, Barton & Lagoudice and Yaw Environmental, who is also assisting the village in operating the plant, in an effort to resolve the issues raised in the update letter.
• The board authorized purchase of a new F250 for the water department and an F350 for the street department at costs slightly over $27,000 for each. Old vehicles were recently sold at auction which will help subsidize the cost of the new vehicles. Police chief Tom Struble also reported that the new police vehicles for the village should be arriving “any day.”
The next regularly scheduled meeting for the village board is set for Monday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. in the municipal building.