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Franklin County has potential prison buyer

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PAUL SMITHS — A potential buyer interested in the Chateaugay Correctional Facility has surfaced, the County of Franklin Industrial Development Agency announced Wednesday, but a very quick and strong local push has to be made to ensure government bureaucracy doesn’t scare them away.

The most important thing, according to IDA CEO John Tubbs, is to persuade Empire State Development to keep the prison off the auction block after it closes July 26. ESD and/or the state Office of General Services will likely be in charge of the facility once it officially closes its doors.

“The latest with Empire State Development is they may be willing to do a [request for proposal] process, but you have to demonstrate community support first,” Mr. Tubbs told IDA board members. “We’re going to need to get together and figure out how to develop sufficient community support and a case for Empire State agreeing to an RFP process.”

A request for proposal is a document that an organization posts to elicit bids from potential vendors for a product or service.

“Even if the community support is there, we don’t know for a fact that they will agree to do it, but it’s the best shot,” he added.

“I think they can be convinced,” said Billy Jones, Franklin County Legislature chairman.

“Tomorrow morning, we’ll be working on that straight away,” Mr. Tubbs said to Mr. Jones, “so I’d certainly appreciate it if you would be involved in that.”

IDA Chairman John Child, executive assistant Maria Bourgeois and Mr. Tubbs attended a recent international business summit in Ottawa, Ontario, to meet with Canadian companies that are considering locating facilities in the U.S. The Canadian government is offering incentives to businesses that do so.

“We’ve got a company that’s interested in the facility. We’re not talking very much yet, but obviously, we can’t stay quiet forever,” Mr. Tubbs said, indicating it’s too early in the process to identify the company. “They don’t want to wait until it goes to auction. What they want to do is to make their case directly to Empire State Development and take control of the facility immediately after it closes.”

Mr. Tubbs said the time frame in which to act is short, but all of the actions take time. First, building the case for an RFP, followed by the actual RFP process of advertising and waiting for bids, will likely go past the deadline of July 26.

“It’s such a tight time frame. We’re into June ... we’re talking July 26. I know plenty of us around this table have dealt with state agencies, and ...,” Mr. Jones said.

“Even if they go through an RFP process, I can’t imagine that they would award anything before fall,” Mr. Tubbs said.

“I would not anticipate it [completing the process before the facility closes], but we’re going to have to see if we can move toward RFP.

“What I’m concerned with, too, is how we can keep the place maintained a little bit. Who’s going to cut the grass? How are we going to do that?” he asked.

“In the interim, we’ve got to make sure that the facility is maintained somehow,” Mr. Jones said, adding that while the state Department of Corrections will no longer be involved, Empire State Development or OGS might be able to maintain it.

“We’ve got somebody willing to go in there. Can you just throw us a bone here for a couple of months to maintain the facility?” Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Tubbs pointed out ESD did provide funding to maintain the buildings at the Pfizer facility in Clinton County when it closed.

“We’ll try and be successful in [the RFP process], and if not, then it’s going to go to auction anyway,” Mr. Tubbs said.

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