LDC looks at acquiring old Watertown prison

Watertown Correctional Facility closed in March. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — After its closure in March, town officials are working to acquire the former Watertown Correctional Facility and its water tower.

Town Supervisor Joel R. Bartlett, who heads the 1000 Islands Regional Local Development Corp., has been talking to state officials about the nonprofit organization acquiring the former prison site for possible resale or redevelopment of the nearly 71-acre property.

Mr. Bartlett confirmed that the local development corporation has a potential buyer for the property, but would not provide information about the prospect. But when asked whether the property could be used for future housing, he said it was a “possibility.”

“I have an interested buyer,” he said.

The all-male prison was one of three correctional facilities the state closed on March 30. Gowanda Correctional Facility, near Buffalo, and the Clinton Correctional Facility Annex, Dannemora, were also closed.

Owned by the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, the Watertown facility, 22951/3147 Swan Road, consists of 90 buildings with 51 inside the compound and 39 outside the compound. DOCCS owns a second adjacent parcel that contains a single-family house.

The LDC is negotiating with the state about acquiring the property. Part of the deal could be the state demolishing portions of the existing buildings.

“We’d sell off the property or redevelop or repurpose it,” Mr. Bartlett said. “Our goal is to get it back on the tax rolls.”

Meanwhile, the town is also talking to the state about acquiring the correctional facility’s water tower so it can continue to service the Dry Hill housing subdivision and Water District 4, he said. A maintenance crew from the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility is currently maintaining the tower, he said.

“It would be better than spending $2 (million) or $3 million to invest in a new water tower,” he said.

Mr. Bartlett plans to send letters to the state Office of General Services, Empire State Development and DOCCS about the regional LDC’s interest in acquiring the property.

Watertown Correctional opened in 1982 and was converted into a prison from a United States Air Force facility. The Watertown facility employed roughly 400 people total.

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