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Press Release January 22, 2013

Hempfield Township Supervisor R. Douglas Weimer PA Senate Judiciary Committee hearing testimony regarding SCI Greensburg closure

"My heart goes out to the many dedicated SCI Greensburg state employees and their families..."

"It is without a doubt, that this decision will most certainly have a direct impact on the residents of Hempfield Township..."

HARRISBURG, PA- “Good afternoon Senator Greenleaf, Senator Ward and panel members, I am joined at the hearing today with my fellow Supervisor Tom Logan and Township Manager Andrew Walz. I would like to begin by thanking you for allowing me to address the committee today on behalf of the residents of Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County.  I am one of five elected Township Supervisors serving the municipal needs of our community. The residents of Hempfield Township have been proud to support SCI Greensburg since its opening in our municipality in 1969 and as such, were shocked by the news that the State corrections administration planned to suddenly close this prison. 

My heart goes out to the many dedicated SCI Greensburg state employees and their families on the sudden news that their lives are about to change. As a resident and elected official in the municipality in which this facility is designated to close, I have already heard accounts on how far reaching the effects of the closure will be. Not only will State Employees lose their jobs at this facility but the local vendors and support services that serve the facility will also lose work with the closure. Families that have called Hempfield home for decades will have to move and leave the community with a field of “for sale” signs. An increased vacancy rate in our Township during this time of current economic uncertainty will have repercussions on all residents whether their employment was directly connected to the facility or not.

It is without a doubt, that this decision will most certainly have a direct impact on the residents of Hempfield Township.  Currently, the municipality raises nearly $20,000 annually through our local service tax from the employees at this prison.  That’s $20,000 less we will have to provide to our volunteer fire departments and recreation programs; $20,000 less to spend on snow removal and street maintenance, and $20,000 less than we budgeted for 2013. There is also an incalculable amount of earned income tax revenue that will be lost from the facilities employees who may live in the 90 square miles of our township that the facility is located within.

This last point raises the question, why was this announcement not made prior to the end of the 2012 municipal fiscal year?  It is clear that the administration planned to close this prison since the fall.  Why not make such an announcement before municipal budgets had to be finalized?

In addition to the Townships loss of revenue, the Hempfield Township Municipal Authority will lose approximately $425,000 annually should this closure go through.  This is a significant loss to an organization whose operating budget is seven million dollars.  So again I ask the question, why could this announcement not have been timed to allow for effected organizations to budget accordingly?

Should this closure occur, Hempfield Township will most certainly become a land of abandoned state buildings, as the Township is already saddled with an abandoned state police communication center.  The state continues to abandon buildings and leave the dirty work to local municipalities.  We request that should SCI Greensburg not be able to be saved, that the state remediate the site to allow for future development.  The loss of nearly 400 jobs at the site will be difficult for a community to overcome. This remediation should include the demolition of the prison and other related structures.  Remediation should insure that the site is suitable to be developed commercially and quickly return to the property tax roles. It is outrageous to me that no plan was developed for the future of the state correctional site or a discussion held with local officials to prepare for the impact of a future closing of the facility will cause.

Again, thank you for this opportunity to appear before this committee and express the concerns that I and my fellow Supervisors have as elected municipal officials in Hempfield Township. “

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