State officially closes Watertown Correctional Facility

Updated: Mar. 31, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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TOWN OF WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It’s a decision that many in the north country opposed, but the state has officially closed the Watertown Correctional Facility.

Name plates have been stripped, flags have been removed, and what once was a packed parking lot is mostly empty.

The Department of Corrections officially shut down the Watertown Correctional Facility on Wednesday.

“It’s become a difficult day and, you know, here we are at the end of March with a new state budget looming that the governor is calling for additional closures,” said NYSCOPBA (New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association) President Mike Powers.

With the shutdown complete, 200 union workers and an additional 200 employees are now reassigned to other facilities. All of the inmates transferred out over the past 3 months.

But what does this mean for the now vacant facility? Town of Watertown Supervisor Joel Bartlett says plans for the property are already being discussed.

“I have been instructed by the board of the Thousand Islands Local Development Corporation, of which I am the chairman, to open negotiations with the Department of Corrections and the Office of General Services,” he said.

The state will oversee any plans as to how the property will be repurposed, but Bartlett says the hope is local agencies will have more control.

There have also been ongoing discussions about the property’s water and sewer system, which is connected to a nearby neighborhood.

Even though the facility is closed, Bartlett says the Department of Corrections is bringing over utility crews from Cape Vincent Correctional to monitor and test the water and sewer until it is turned over to the town.

“We’re still in the information gathering, working back and forth between the town’s engineers and the Department of Corrections engineers and any final agreement to transfer the title to the water and sewer would have to be put into written form and agreed to by the town board,” he said.

Bartlett says that process could take several months.

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