ELIZABETHTOWN - An extensive report on the economic impact of Moriah Shock Correctional Facility portrays Essex County as an depressed area dependent on its presence and details just how much more there is to lose if the prison is closed.
The Essex County Moriah Shock Task Force, comprised of local officials and department heads, prepared the 23-page report and hand-delivered it to state officials in Albany March 2. County Manager Dan Palmer drafted much of its content.
"We feel we can demonstrate that this closure has an impact that goes beyond the Town of Moriah or the County of Essex, and that ultimately this will prove to have a negative impact on the state," Palmer wrote in the report.
The report cites, among other things, an analysis by SUNY Plattsburgh Economics professor Colin Read. The Essex County Board of Supervisors recently approved a contingency expenditure of $3,800 for Read to compile his study.
Read, who holds a Ph.D. in Economics, used software called IMPLAN 3.0 to estimate how much the facility pumps into the local economy through purchases and labor income, as well as how much those suppliers and employees spend their money locally.
Through his analysis, Read determined, in addition to the 102 non-education personnel employed within the facility, there are the equivalent of 41 full-time local jobs dependent on its operation.
Those 143 jobs take in total earnings of nearly $8 million each year, explained Read; roughly 1.2 percent of the county's total labor income.
Losing those jobs would cause the unemployment rate to jump from 10.3 percent to 11.1 percent, said Read. In turn, he estimates home values to decrease by $23 million county-wide. The overall loss of jobs and property value would mean a $3.4 million loss of state and local tax revenue and $2.2 million loss of federal tax revenue.
"These total tax revenue losses totaling $5,570,953 rivals the $6,910,698 budget for the Moriah Shock Treatment facility," wrote Read.
Read also calculated that Moriah Shock inmates provided the equivalent of 47.1 full-time jobs through 94,136 hours community service in 2009. At the average salary received by groundskeepers in the North Country, that equates to $1.2 million worth of labor annually.
More than one-third of those hours were spent doing work for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the report states, and Moriah Shock crews are the "front line labor crews" for clean-up and recovery from many natural disasters in the region during the past 15 years.
"The state will have to supplement the lost labor in some fashion within their departmental budgets," Palmer argued.
"We believe we can support our contention that it is unreasonable for the State to expect we can absorb this in addition to our normal hardships associated with life in the Adirondacks," wrote Palmer.
Citing the 2009 Adirondack Park Regional Assessment Project, the report highlights the region's dependency on correctional services. That study determined non-education government-sector jobs account for more than 30 percent of all employment in most of the Adirondacks and about 4 percent of the region's population resides in a prison.
The report also notes how Essex County's median income is $43,132 per year; 23.91 percent below the statewide average of $53,448. Palmer pointed out how 30 percent of the county's population are receiving some sort of assistance through Social Services.
"All of us understand shared sacrifice," Palmer stated, "but when 38,857 residents are asked to carry the load for the benefit of those within the state who live outside the park, then it is no longer shared sacrifice, but rather unreasonably assigned burden."