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Hempfield prison site closer to market

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 11:45 p.m.

The state will subdivide the site of the former state prison in Hempfield as the first step toward selling the 123-acre property to the highest bidder, according to the Department of General Services.

Spokesman Troy Thompson said the site must be subdivided because the state needs to exclude a state police facility on the property from the sale process. The building was intended to be a state police communications center, but it was never opened. It houses a regional crime lab.

Thompson said there is no timetable to sell the land. He said the subdivision plan is the next step for getting it ready to be put out for bids.

Hempfield Supervisor Doug Weimer said the subdivision is necessary for the state to retain ownership of the crime lab. The plan will go before the township planning commission for preliminary approval and then to the board of supervisors for final approval.

“We're more than willing to work with the state,” Weimer said. “We'll expedite the process so if the state has a buyer, they'll be ready to go.”

The State Correctional Institution in Hempfield and the prison in Cresson, Cambria County, closed last summer as part of a cutting measure that Department of Corrections officials contend will save taxpayers $23 million. Officials cited the declining prison population and the higher cost of operating two of the state's oldest prisons. The Hempfield facility opened in 1969.

The closing of the Westmoreland facility meant the loss of 400 jobs.

The 2,500 inmates at the two institutions were transferred to a new $200 million prison in Centre County. Corrections officers were reassigned to other facilities within the Department of Corrections.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reachedat 724-830-6292 orrgazarik@tribweb.com.

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