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Former state prison in Windsor proposed as new home for district state agencies

  • Cabbages still fill a section of garden that yielded 4,000 pounds of produce this year by the labor of inmates at the Southeast State Correctional Facility in Windsor, Vt., Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The original dormitory was built in 1916 by warden Ralph Walker who started a farm run by inmates as an experiment on 1,200 acres of state-owned land. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 2/13/2020 10:06:59 PM
Modified: 2/13/2020 10:06:48 PM

WINDSOR — Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed capital budget includes $700,000 to renovate buildings at the former state prison off County Road for use by the Springfield district of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, state officials said Thursday.

Erik Filkorn, principal assistant with the Department of Building and General Services, which manages the property, said the proposal before the Legislature includes money to renovate the “education and administrative” buildings at the Windsor complex. The Springfield offices of Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Recreation are now in the state office building on Mineral Street in Springfield.

Filkorn said the funding also would allow the state to develop plans for the Windsor prison property, which includes about 100 acres and a number of other buildings.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said Thursday the money also might be used to create storage space in Windsor for equipment now stored at the airport in Springfield.

“We are working with Building and General Services to develop a best use for the property,” Porter said, adding that it made sense to “co-locate” Fish and Wildlife and Parks and Recreation because the departments, which are both part of the Agency of Natural Resources, work closely together.

A report to the Legislature in December 2018 from the Department of Buildings and General Services, which retains management authority over the roughly 100 acres of fenced-in property, said three buildings with a total of 12,391 square feet “could provide functional office units with only minor upgrades.”

A project fact sheet from the Scott administration said the renovations would include the restrooms; energy efficient lighting upgrades; new flooring, ceiling tiles and doors; additional baseboard heat; and electrical and data upgrades. The state would need a change of use permit from the Town of Windsor to change from a correctional facility to office use.

Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said he heard about the plan from the two state representatives for Windsor, John Bartholomew and Zachariah Ralph. Bartholomew, D-Hartland, said the bill is being heard by the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions, chaired by state Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield. A message left for Emmons was not returned Thursday.

The prison closed down in October 2017. At the time the property included about 700 acres outside the prison fence and management of that property was transferred to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and renamed Windsor Grasslands Wildlife Management Area.

“It makes sense to move Fish and Wildlife there,” Bartholomew said of the transfer of offices from Springfield.

Other buildings at the site were recommended for light industrial space, storage or commercial garage space.

Bartholomew noted that Windsor officials and residents have said they did not want another correctional facility at the site and may have preferred a use that produces tax revenue for the town, but he said the state wants to keep the property because of its assets.

“It has quality power, water and access to sewer. Those are hard to come by, and that is why the state is reluctant to give it up,” Bartholomew said. “In my opinion this is a step in the right direction.”

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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