The Allegany County Legislature Monday balked at even considering a resolution asking the state "to construct (a) new prison in the Town of Friendship."
Chairman Edgar Sherman, R-Little Genesee, said State Sen. Patricia McGee, R-Franklinville, had asked him late last week to get the Legislature's reaction to such a proposal.
Sherman said he had little time to research the matter and did not have the resolution prefiled for Monday's meeting.
So a two-thirds vote of the Legislature was required even to get the matter before the legislators. They refused.
"This is a huge issue." said Legislator Curtis Corkey, R-Almond, who opposed considering the resolution without adequate time to study its ramifications. "I don't see how we can commit on this today."
Friendship Supervisor Frank Dunn told the Legislature his board favors the proposition. He cited economic benefits the community can expect and noted that a straw poll in the town endorsed locating a prison there.
The state has proposed building a prison somewhere in Western New York, and Sherman said McGee told him she needed the Legislature's assent to pursue the project for Friendship.
Several legislators said Monday they might call a special meeting for later this week to consider the issue, if it gets through an abbreviated committee review process.
Legislator Susan Myers, R-Friendship, said Monday that Sherman told her the Legislature would likely meet again Wednesday afternoon.
But Legislator James Graffrath, R-Andover, said he remained unsure Monday whether or when such a special meeting would be called.
He said that as a former police officer, he opposes a prison in the area, but he respects the Friendship community's right to choose for itself.
Dunn said he knows the owners of three appropriate sites in the town are prepared to sell to the state.
Myers said the county Legislature had previously approved a request from Friendship for site consideration as recently as 1998.
And Legislator Rodney K. Bennett, R-Dalton, said he recognizes the authority of the home-rule policy under which Friendship has a right not to expect county interference with its wishes.
Undersheriff William Timberlake, who lives in Angelica, said he opposes the prison because "every arrest in that prison . . . will come through our courts," and state prisoners awaiting trial could overwhelm the county jail.
He also warned of "new headaches of the kind we've not had before."
He cited an "influx of people coming to see their loved ones, from places like New York City and Buffalo, with all the problems that go along with the big city."