Orange County Partnership - News

Warwick, Orange County see future profit in former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility

By James Walsh
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 08/30/14
Last updated: 9:23 AM - 08/30/14

WARWICK — Shiny coils of intimidating razor wire still crown fences at the former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility.

The red carpet, though, has been rolled out by local and county officials for businesses to transform the shuttered prison into the Warwick Valley Office and Technology Corporate Park.

Providing well-paying jobs close by has been a persistent goal of the town, which is using a local development corporation to oversee the transformation. And, as Supervisor Michael Sweeton happily observes, businesses will put much of the property on the tax roll after a 70-year run as a state boys training school and medium-security prison.

Some features of the former Mid-Orange Correctional Facility campus:

- 738 acres, including 400 acres of undevelopable wetlands

- Gymnasium building

- Combination dining hall and workshop building

- Classrooms and several dormitories

- Maintenance garage

- Fields open for commercial development

- Power house with two 6,000-gallon oil tanks, and two electrical generators

- Club house

- Baseball fields

The state finalized the sale to the LDC and town early this year.

LDC Chairman Robert Krahulik said last week that ongoing negotiations could lead two companies to decide within a few weeks whether to establish businesses on the grounds. The identities of those companies has not been revealed. Krahulik and Sweeton said the prospective buyers are interested in existing buildings, not the site's undeveloped land.

“And we're already off to a good start with Trans Tech,” which is leasing two warehouses, Krahulik said.
Trans Tech is a school-bus manufacturer based off Warwick's Lake Station Road. The company is developing an all-electric school bus, Krahulik said, “and if things go well, they could build a factory” on the former prison property.

Sweeton pointed out the site's campus-like atmosphere, though lawns and flower beds have been overtaken by weeds. He remarked on the overall lack of bars – the prisoners lived dormitory-style – and the brick-sturdiness of the buildings, while guiding Times Herald-Record journalists through the prison.

“They were putting roofs on the day they announced they were closing the facility,” Sweeton said, gesturing to red shingles atop the buildings.

A light layer of dust coated metal stools in the mess hall, nearly three years after the last inmate was served a meal. Traces of their presence, though, persisted in the sometimes shadowy corridors.

“No inmates allowed on serving line without authorization,” a sign warned. “Inmates have 10 minutes to get to the mess hall line after housing unit is notified.”

Another posting outside the gymnasium reminded prisoners not to wear hats, hoods or doo rags. Tape players and headphones were not to be brought into the gym.

“It was a prison, after all, “ Sweeton said.

Marketing efforts
The Orange County Partnership has been marketing the site. One company, Manna Foods, publicized its interest in using all or most of the property for educational programs linking Chinese and American farmers. Eventually, it would build a plant to make exportable food products.

Manna's timeline stretches over several years, Krahulik said, and the LDC would like to see jobs provided more quickly. The LDC is also reluctant to sell to a single business, Sweeton said.

Of the 738-acres, the LDC owns 150 acres, including the buildings. It paid $3.5 million for the property. A mortgage at less than 1 percent interest was provided by local businessman Robert Schlutter. The remaining acreage was sold by the state to the town for $1. Most of the property will remain undeveloped for environmental preservation and recreation.

Sweeton tells of the town's determination to keep the property from falling into the hands of a housing developer. He's standing on a field available for construction. It's where the boys training school pastured its cows.

“This can give us high-paying jobs and good rateables instead,” Sweeton said.