What happens to fire & police training facilities on now-closed prison property?

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 4:29 PM EDT
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TOWN OF WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The now-closed Watertown Correctional Facility not only housed inmates and employed hundreds of workers, its property also had training facilities for local police officers and firefighters. So, what happens to the training?

The state owns around 90 acres of land off Swan Road in the town of Watertown. The state prison sits on a big part of it, but some of that land is where local firefighters and police officers get crucial training

With the prison closed, there are questions and challenges surrounding the future of that training.

The biggest issue is electricity and water, which may be cut off soon. But, Larry Girard, the president of the Jefferson County Firefighters Association, says they can work around it.

“As far as sanitary, we can bring a porta-john or two up here. We got generators, we’ve got lights on our trucks. We can light a scene up, no problem. And if we need to do that, we’ll do it,” he said.

Firefighters from all over Jefferson County participate in smoke training and live burns while at the facility. Girard says the facility at Dry Hill is the most convenient in the county.

Other facilities are located in Lewis and Oswego Counties. But getting everyone there with all of the equipment can be challenging.

“We either need this one or we need one just like it someplace. To build a new one, would cost us seven figues and more,” said Girard.

As for police officers, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office trains on the state prison property a couple times a year and they plan on continuing.

“As recently as last week, our entry team will come over and do some active shooter training, or some gas training, or some flash bang training,” said Lieutenant Kevin Amann, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

They have several other training spots throughout the county they can rely on as well.

We tried to go beyond the gates at the training facility to help tell this story. While the local guys were okay with it, permission still had to be acquired from Albany. That permission was denied.

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