BRIGHTON - New York State is making its first active effort to sell one of the area's most recently closed prisons.
Carla Chiaro, acting commissioner of the state Office of General Services, announced Oct. 18 the OGS will conduct a sealed bid auction for the former Camp Gabriels Correctional Facility near Paul Smiths.
The minimum-security prison, which the state closed in May 2009 amidst budget cutbacks, has sat vacant and unused since then, much to the dismay of local officials.
"We're hopeful that it will be put to some use that will be beneficial to the town," said Brighton town supervisor John Quenell.
The town formed a citizens committee in January to consider possible new uses and identify perspective buyers for the facility, but Quenell said nothing too promising has come up thus far.
"I think, at this point, we just need to wait and hope for the best," he added. "I think the state is determined to sell the property."
Quenell said the town has considered acquiring the facility, which it is allowed to do by law if it can develop and execute a plan for its development as a municipal facility.
"There's a very small likelihood the town would even be interested in it," said Quenell, "so I think the chances are good that it will end up in private hands."
Still, Quenell said, the site represents a big risk to potential buyers due to its sheer size and some very precarious unknowns.
The 92-acre site features 48 separate buildings including storage buildings, three circa-1927 dormitories, a gymnasium, and a 100-year-old chapel.
"It's just an awfully big bite for anyone who might be interested in it," Quenell said, adding some of the aging buildings may need asbestos or lead paint remediation.
OGS has set a minimum bid of $950,000 for the auction, and is requiring a 10-percent deposit to accompany all sealed bids.
"My personal feeling is that is very high," said Quenell. "I'd be very surprised if there are any bids at those prices."
One big issue Quenell noted was how future land use reclassification of the site by the Adirondack Park Agency remains very much a mystery, which represents uncertainty for many potential buyers.
Land on one side of the facility is public land classified as wild forest. Private land on the opposite side is low or moderate intensity use.
Beyond its life as a prison, Quenell said, Camp Gabriels would be best suited for some type of institutional use, such as a college field station or youth camp.
"Perhaps some light manufacturing of some kind," he said, "but there are just so many buildings that it's probably not the kind of place a small business would likely be interested in."
Site inspections for the auction will be held Thursday, Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Interested parties may pre-register for this or other site inspections by calling 474-2195.
The sealed bids will be opened in public Nov. 17, at 2 p.m. at the Corning Tower in Albany. Those interested in attending should call 474-4944 to pre-register for admittance to the building.