Monterey 'shock' still shuttered
MONTEREY--When the former Monterey Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility (also known as the Monterey Shock Camp) in the Schuyler County town of Orange closed in 2014, the doors were closed on an impressive array of infrastructure --90,000 square feet "under roof" plus roads and parking areas. Like the residents of the former Civilian Conservation Corps Camp, the young men who were inmates at Monterey had served the surrounding area by lending their muscle to a variety of jobs useful to under-resourced communities, many of them outdoor tasks like raking and picking up trash in parks and public areas, maintaining trails in state and national forests, and more. They were non-violent offenders who received training, education and military-style discipline. A high proportion of graduates--compared to the traditional prison system--returned to their communities and remained out of prison.
Despite the relative success of the program, New York state closed this facility, citing a reduced crime rate and smaller inmate population. The buildings had been well maintained and in 2014 were carefully closed down. The New York State Industrial Development Agency (IDA) hoped to find a corporate, service or non-profit group to rent or buy the facility and repurpose it for industry, recreation or education. Despite a variety of agencies and corporations who have expressed interest in the property, it's still looking for the right tenant.
The Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) has shown the property numerous times and there's a strong interest in seeing it put to use again. "We continue to market it, we put all the pieces in place [for] when we have a tenant ready to go," says Judy McKinney-Cherry, SCOPED executive director. Information on the property has been sent to a myriad of potential clients in a variety of fields. In addition to the property, the county offers the additional resource of a potential work force eager for employment.
"We've had a broad usage interest--recreation, small business, interest from organizations that wanted to provide services for young offenders, interest from individuals interested in medical marijuana. The challenge is that it's a very large site with a lot of buildings that are actually in very good shape structurally--but it's a lot for one user to use. It's almost industrial for the size of the buildings and the infrastructure. But we can't put industrial uses in there. It has to be something more in keeping with the fact there's a state forest around it. The agreement is that we would not use it for residential or heavy industry." Despite those restrictions, they've had potential tenants seem seriously interested, then back off. "It's unfortunate when that happens," Cherry says. "But we've had additional interest, we were walking the property a few weeks ago."
Says Schuyler County Administrator Tim O'Hearn, "There's no hard and fast timeline. We don't want to sacrifice time for quality. We're interested in a good end use as opposed to expediency."
In 2015, a group of Cornell students came to explore the property and brainstorm potential clients for the site. "One of the uses they came up with was senior living, but it's not near public transportation or services," she says, summing up their conclusions. "From a sustainable planning perspective you wouldn't put a development like that in the middle of a state forest." Another student idea was repurposing the campus as a retreat center for conferences, like the one at Watson Homestead in Painted Post in adjacent Steuben County. "But can the region support two of those?" Cherry asks. In consultation with representatives from Watson Homestead, she concluded that it probably can't.
Among those to whom SCOPED has reached out are hydroponics and aquaponics farms, resorts and educational institutions. At the moment, there are still prospects considering the property, but Cherry declined to comment on specific potential tenants.
"I'm optimistic that it will find a suitable tenant or owner," O'Hearn says. "It's possible it could return to the tax rolls depending on the nature and use of the facility. The goal is to have it generate tax revenue in the future as well as employment and other economic pluses."
He adds, "I don't think the future occupant will be a local business. I expect it will be out of the area, because it's a large facility and grounds and it will take a firm that has the wherewithal to acquire it and maintain it. It will be a fairly elaborate operational and maintenance budget."