MACHIAS – Nearly 50 people will lose their jobs if Governor Paul LePage succeeds in closing the Downeast Correctional Facility.
But the economic impact of the possible shut down reaches far beyond the prison.
Governor LePage maintains the state stands to save $5 million if the Macahiasport prison closes, however, a recent study suggests Washington County would lose 18 jobs on top of the 51 prison jobs that would disappear.
Taken together these job losses add up to an economic loss to Washington County of about $6.8 million annually.
Machias Savings Bank C.E.O. Larry Barker said “It’s not just the direct flow of money into the region’s economy that has people worried. Surrounding towns likely will have to increase their maintenance budgets when they lose the prisoners as a critical element of the workforce.”
“For the towns, they maintain three of our cemeteries they do the mowing and trimming, help straighten stones as needed. And as I said a lot construction projects.” added Macias town manager Christine Therrien.
The LePage administration’s effort to close the prison seems to be counter productive to economic development efforts the governor has spearheaded.
Charles Rudelitch from Sunrise County Economic Council stated “Govenor LePage’s administration has invested a good deal in Washington County. Both in time and effort around the paper mill and in some direct initiatives that are important for Washington County.”
Despite the governor’s statements on the closure attempt as a means to save money, streamline the state corrections system and close what he called a dilapidated facility, many people still don’t know the rationale behind the prison shutdown effort.
Barker added “You know, as I stand here today, I really don’t know what those reasons are. There’s no transparency, there’s been very little communication.”
With the clock ticking down toward the legislature’s adjournment date, time is rapidly slipping away in which any successful effort to stop the closure of the Downeast Correctional Facility could be mounted.
Washington County Commissioners held a special meeting Thursday night where they discussed the ongoing situation.
The commissioners announced Friday7 morning that they voted unanimously to start exploring all legal options to address the closure of the facility.
We’re following this story closely and we will keep you updated.