Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) Commissioner Brian Fischer appeared at a public forum in front of more than 400 Hudson Correctional Facility (HCF) employees, their families and other concerned citizens, at Columbia-Greene Community College on January 29, 2008, to discuss Governor Spitzer’s proposal to close the Hudson Correctional Facility. In response to a question, Commissioner Fischer stated that he would maintain the status quo to provide the Legislature with the opportunity to avoid the closure. It now appears those words were, at best empty, if not deceitful.
In fact, DOCS is engaging in shameless coercion and scare tactics to get employees of HCF, particularly civilian employees, to transfer to other facilities, despite the fact that few positions are available within a reasonable commuting distance.
Obviously, the effort to frighten employees into leaving as quickly as possible is an attempt to destabilize HCF and, in turn, necessitate either a reduction in population or expedite the closing. Clearly, this is not an effort to be open and transparent and engage people in the community, but to steamroll any and all opposition. Unlike the workings of prior administrations, the Legislature and the public should not be denied an opportunity to demonstrate the closure is not in the County’s best interests.
The impact of the loss of local jobs cannot be overestimated. The Hudson Correctional Facility provides over 300 jobs for the area, which will be lost. At the same time, published accounts indicate that LB Furniture may close its doors putting roughly 130 individuals out of work. A recent news article said that another local business may be moving, along with 140 jobs, from Columbia County. Under the federal budget proposal, Columbia Memorial Hospital may lose $11 million in federal Medicare funding over the next five years. The impact on the City of Hudson and Columbia County is staggering. The loss of tens of millions of dollars between lost payroll and the multiplier effect, and the blow to the social fabric of Columbia County would be devastating.
Mayor Rick Scalera, Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Baer and I are fighting to derail the Governor’s effort. If the Spitzer administration is truly concerned about the upstate economy, why have they chosen to ignore, if not ostracize, Columbia County?