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Employees Prepare to Close Willard Addiction Treatment Center | News

WILLARD — The closure of the Willard Drug Treatment Campus, announced in November, becomes reality in a few days.

On Thursday, for the first time in 153 years, the 650-acre campus overlooking Seneca Lake in this southern Seneca County community will be silent and empty. That’s when the medium-security facility will close, a move that has forced its 268 staff to find new jobs or make other decisions related to their future.

One of them is correctional officer Ryan Rank, who told a news outlet in November that he was married, had two young children and that Willard had been a wonderful place to work.

“I can go home with my kids every day and if we close it’s not going to happen,” Rank said at the time. “I’ll probably be shipped off across the state somewhere and start over, not knowing where.”

Rank has accepted a position as a prison officer at the five points maximum security correctional facility in Romulus, a few miles north of Willard. So he’s undoubtedly happy that he doesn’t have to uproot his family.

Thirteen acres of the former Willard Psychiatric Center campus was converted into a drug treatment center in 1995. State officials said the decision to close it was a shrinking prison population. Many employees took steps to remain at the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and others, in addition to Rank, moved to Five Points.

Officials said no layoffs are expected and that DOCCS is working closely with Willard’s various bargaining units to provide them with priority placement opportunities through voluntary transfers, as well as employment rights. bumping into other state facilities or agencies following formal civilian engagement. service process followed after the closure of a correctional facility.

Patsy Cornacchio of Elmira, the New York State Corrections Officers Police Benevolent Association’s West Region business officer, said the union represents 228 corrections officers and sergeants in Willard. Cornacchio said union members were not allowed to speak to the media – which is why, apart from Cornacchio, none were interviewed for this story.

Cornacchio said there were about 61 officers left at Willard.

“The majority who wanted to continue working for corrections accepted transfers to Five Points in Romulus, Auburn Correctional and Cayuga Correctional in Moravia,” Cornacchio said. “Some went to Elmira Correctional, from where I will work as a union official. That’s where I live, but I’m still going to visit the 12 institutions in the western region.

Cornacchio began working as a corrections officer in 1995, when the Willard campus opened. He worked there in that capacity until August 2021, when he took up his union job.

“Some of those in Willard with the least seniority have had to accept transfers to facilities across the state, although efforts have been made to keep them as close to home as possible,” he said. declared.

Civilian employees were offered jobs at agencies across the state to avoid layoffs.

“There will be a reduced Five Points team to come and pack, along with other staff. This process should take 4-6 weeks,” Cornacchio explained. “Thursday will be a sad day for the community, workers, families and inmates. Willard had a good program. When it started in 1995 it was unique, and now it’s gone. The economic impact will hit hard.

Willard’s 108 inmates, well below the facility’s capacity of 664, will be moved to Lakeview Shock Incarceration Center in Chautauqua County.

As for the buildings, corrections officials say they will work with the General Service Office and the Empire State Development Corp. to find a new tenant. Upon the closure of the drug treatment campus, the state will begin the decommissioning process to protect the assets for possible reuse.

The 2021-22 state budget authorizes the governor to close six of the state’s 50 prisons as incarcerated populations decline. This will save about $142 million, according to state officials.

At the time, residents of southern Seneca County could generally find decent, long-term employment at the Willard Psychiatric Center or the Seneca Army Depot in Romulus. However, the sprawling psychiatric center, which opened in 1869, closed in 1995. The Depot closed in 2000 after 59 years. Five Points was built on the southern part of the old depot.

State and local officials, including State Senator Pam Helming, R-54 of Canandaigua, and State Assembly Members Jeff Gallahan, R-131 of Manchester, and Phil Palmesano, Corning’s R-132, denounced the closure, including the new policy that allows a governor to close a correctional facility on 90 days’ notice, not a year’s notice, as was previously the case. Opponents say the closure of an alternative to incarceration center designed to help offenders reintegrate into society is shortsighted and uproots staff and families. Although no layoffs were expected, selling a home and moving to a new community and school on short notice, or traveling long distances, were cited as unfair.

Restaurants, gas stations and other businesses in the area have already felt the loss as Willard’s workforce dwindles. In addition, volunteers such as sports coaches for young people will leave, and the real estate market will also feel the effects.