Jan. 01--MOREAU -- Reflecting the opinion of local voters Monday night, the Town Board in a 3-2 vote narrowly approved a resolution supporting a Las Vegas-style resort casino at the 1,200 acre state-owned Mount McGregor Correctional Facility property.
Fifty-five percent of Moreau voters supported the Nov. 5 proposition to allow seven Las Vegas-style casinos in the state -- including four upstate -- compared with just 46 percent for Saratoga County as a whole.
The state-owned medium-security prison is scheduled to close in July, one year after the state Department of Corrections announced it would close the site along with three other prisons. About 320 Mount McGregor employees will be displaced. State officials have said the employees will be transferred to other facilities with no layoffs as part of a plan that would reduce the cost of the state's prison system by $30 million a year.
"My feeling is that 55 percent of the voters voted in favor of casinos," Supervisor Preston Jenkins said. "Is a casino really economic development? Many could say no, but when you live in a region that depends on tourism, it is an economic development issue."
Jenkins said a local casino would benefit the region, considering the site's proximity to Lake George and its nearness to the Northway.
"It's a fitting location with plenty of acreage, and it's not in anybody's back yard," Jenkins said. "I think the three people who voted yes believe in the concept of what it could do for us as a region."
Jenkins said there's also been talk of adding the Mount McGregor site to Moreau Lake State Park, a measure the Saratoga Capital District Parks Commission voted to support in December.
He said a casino resort could be built where roads and buildings already exist, and the remainder of the site could be added to the park.
Jenkins said about 80 percent of the prison area is in Moreau. Land on the back side of the mountain is in Corinth, while the road leading up to the prison is in Wilton.
The board's action Monday authorized the town supervisor to send a letter if support for a casino on behalf of the board to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The resolution states that more than $11 million would be distributed to Saratoga County, and the project could create more than 1,000 jobs during the construction phase.
Jenkins said the prison's closure and the shuttering of General Electric Co.'s Fort Edward plant, which will take place no sooner than September 2014, will create a void in jobs for the region.
"Our region is losing 200 jobs, not just Fort Edward," Jenkins said of the plant's closure.
Jenkins said there has already been discussions about a casino with Empire State Development, the agency looking for new uses for the property.
He said the town received a response from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut and sent correspondence to other casino owners.
"I'm not saying this is going anywhere at this point," Jenkins said.
Wilton Supervisor Art Johnson couldn't be reached for comment on whether his board is considering a similar resolution.
Corinth Supervisor Richard Lucia said his board may discuss supporting casinos in the area at its Thursday organizational meeting. He said people in Corinth have been considering the former International Paper site, too.
"I hope it settles in this area," Lucia said.
The historic structures on the Wilton site were built as a tuberculosis sanitarium at about 1913. Before that, it was the site of a hotel that was destroyed in a fire. The campus was later used as a home for veterans and eventually a center for developmentally disabled people, before it closed around 1875. It was converted into a prison in 1981.
The site is also home to Grant Cottage. Located in Moreau, the historic site on Mount McGregor, where President Ulysses S. Grant died in 1885, has gained popularity and hit record attendance this past season, drawing more than 5,000 visitors.
Friends of Grant Cottage President Tim Welch couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment.