In the formative days of the new Greene County Jail proposal, the Greene County Legislature debated over the basics. Lawmakers talked cost, number of beds, secondary facilities and siting. It was fairly straightforward and the prospect of a 135-bed jail in Coxsackie appeared certain.
But in a few months, discussion turned to alternatives to incarceration, a proposed feasibility study of the new jail’s costs that didn’t get off the ground and a modest proposal for Greene County to share jail services with Columbia County.
The Legislature should remember the old adage that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Momentum has swung away from the desire to build a new jail and toward sharing a jail with Columbia County. Closing the Greene County Jail on Bridge Street in Catskill forced the issue. Without much official fanfare, Greene found itself sharing a jail with Columbia and Ulster counties.
While the question of sharing jail services has been answered, temporarily, at least, county lawmakers met in special session to kick around suggestions on how to cut the $51.4 million cost of building a new jail.
Eliminating square footage from the design, the type of brick considered for construction, the electrical system — these and more were on the table for discussion. There is little doubt what the Legislature did at that marathon session was a day late and a dollar short.
No breakthroughs were made, but none were expected. Searching for savings now, with the existing jail closed and sharing jail services proceeding with apparent smoothness, is a lot like putting the cart before the horse.
It’s also another strange twist in the saga of the new jail. Lawmakers are supposed to spitball ideas at the start of a new project, not when the project is all but dead in the water.