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County quick-pitches jail construction

July 2, 2019 06:02 pm Updated: July 2, 2019 11:49 pm

In the Greene County version of the no-huddle offense, officials started construction of the new jail this week without stopping for a groundbreaking ceremony, some speeches or even a few thank-yous to everyone who made this boondoggle possible. No, it was get in and start building, public be damned and not a word to anyone. County officials couldn’t even deliver the hype they themselves created.

Under recent criminal justice reforms, the jail’s bed count was dropped to 48, with a projected cost savings of $3.5 million. County lawmakers will now have to decide whether to cut expenses from the $8.1 million county contribution or from the $39 million U.S. Department of Agriculture bond. Either way, the downward trend of inmate populations across the state should have led to one conclusion and one only: Stop this ridiculously expensive project.

By another trick of fate, one of many that seem to have gone the county’s way through this entire process, the village of Coxsackie is about to embark on a parallel project that will expand the capacity of its wastewater treatment plant in about two years, just in time to handle the extra load from the new jail.

Now, improvement to the plant, built in 1972, is long overdue and would have gone forward without the jail. The last upgrade took place more than 20 years ago. The increased capacity will eliminate the need for overflows, meaning no more raw sewage will flow into the Hudson River. By that measure, it’s a boon to Coxsackie and a coincidence.

But as jail construction begins, Greene County taxpayers should be disheartened. This could turn out to be the biggest waste of resources in county history. In two years, inmate population patterns could change so dramatically that the vaunted, much-anticipated county jail could be obsolete before the key opens the door.

A shared jail appeared to be the answer, but the county, in its haste to get the shovels into the ground, outran several assemblymen and senators who got behind a bill to clarify the legality of shared jails. We think such a bill would have passed, given Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide policy calling for sharing municipal services wherever possible.

The Greene County Legislature somehow managed to pursue only an expensive, possibly needless, venture while the majority revealed little imagination or interest in pursuing attainable, less costly options.

In May, the county legislature decided to seek state assistance regarding shared jails in a 10-4 vote. When the Legislature did not receive signed letters from state leaders confirming a law would be passed, county lawmakers did not object to moving forward with the project.

My appeal is heard by the Appellate Panel on the 15th of July. Myers v. Greene County, et. al., 529313. The court accepted jurisdiction and signed an Order To Show Cause. The panel can decide to stay construction until the appeal is fully submitted and after decisions are completed. An appeal is heard in October and November. The monster in Coxsackie is an anachronism at the outset, deadly in terms of fiscal irresponsibility, and likely grossly illegal on many substantive points of law. Any reader is encouraged to prepare and file Amicus Briefs in favor of a stay.
The Greene County Legislature says it represents the interests of its constituents. But, what does that really mean? In Greene County where one out of three people work for the government it all to often translates into the rest of us subsidizing a patronage system, and one that does not benefit most of us.

We currently have about 30 detainees in our jail population. But we're being forced to finance an albatross for the next 30 years + that is sized 50% larger than that in order to "meet regulations." That would not have been the case at all with farming out our detainee population. But, if you build a jail you have to pay for the staff required for its potential full capacity. That is why this stupidity is going to cost us all more than $90,000,000 in the end.

All this pain to fund 30 jail guard jobs. That's $3,000,000 per "saved" job for the political patronage machine.

If you find all this infuriating only pledge your vote for candidates that will work to undo this jail disaster. It's time to replace the Greene County Legislature. They are incompetent, and they have contempt for the public. The same is true of the Sheriff. We are paying to support way, way too much overlapping law enforcement for our tax assessment base.
Do you have a crystal ball that tells you that the criminal population in Greene Co. will decline in coming years? Greene Co. needs it's own jail and not continue to enrich other counties by paying them to house their inmates. We would continue to pay and still have nothing to show for it. Plus add in the cost of extra wear and tear on vehicles, extra mileage, cost for gas, etc. to transport prisoners for court hearings, doctor and dental appointments. Also, overtime pay for some because of the extra distance to transport a prisoner to another county. And lets add officer safety because of having inmates in their vehicle for extended periods of time to transport to other counties. The legislature demanded certain changes to the original design and they were made. The plans are for 48 cells. If Greene Co. has the extra beds then they can board prisoners from other counties and enrich their pockets.
No, "Mouse1 107. No crystal ball necessary, just a calculator, common sense and the actual math. We're not "enriching other counties." We're in a position to negotiate favorable rates for the number of detainees that we decide to farm out to appropriate venues that represent existing and Dept. of Corrections approved facilities. The rest of your arguments are equally specious and without merit. For example, the transport time for detainees to Hudson is less than to Coxsackie. As for "enriching our own pockets?" Pray tell, where's YOUR crystal ball. "Vacancy Signs" are posted all over the map of adjacent counties that have overbuild jail capacities that are soon to become even more surplus driven due to substantive changes in our laws and detainee population.