Prison closure could stop water tank

CRESSON – Township officials said the closure of the State Correctional Institution at Cresson could have a significant impact on plans to install a new water tank in the township.

The prison currently provides about half of the water authority’s total revenue, said Richard Wray, township engineer.

The township had planned to install a new water tank near the site of the prison.

The state-owned prison and the Cresson Secure Treatment Unit, a juvenile detention center operated by Justice Resource Institute through a contract with Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare, were expected to tie into the system.

But the planned closure of SCI Cresson means a majority of the customers originally projected to utilize the system will disappear when the prison closes in June.

Wray said Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th District, sent the township a letter regarding potential hardships surrounding the prison closure.

Shuster asked the township to submit any problems, including the water tank project, which may arise as a result of the prison closure.

Township officials contacted Pennvest concerning the project, but no changes have been made to the funding application for the water tank, Wray said Thursday evening.

Officials expect a formal decision on the application by Jan. 23.

During their Thursday morning meeting in Ebensburg, Cambria County commissioners said the prison closure was an “unexpected challenge.”

Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said he would work with officials, including Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, to petition the governor to delay the closure and demonstrate the importance of the corrections facility to the local economy.

President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder added that commissioners would not make any “rash decisions,” but the timing of the closure surprised many individuals in the community.

SCI Cresson and SCI Greensburg in neighboring Westmoreland County are scheduled to close by June 30.

About 2,400 former inmates from the corrections facilities will be transferred to SCI Benner and other correctional facilities across the state, officials announced Wednesday.

A hiring freeze issued within the Department of Corrections will allow employees at the two facilities to transfer to different prisons, including SCI Benner in Centre County, officials said.