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Fate of old jail on the table

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    Catskill resident Cassidy Bua and her husband Matt are spearheading a movement to preserve the former county jail at 80 Bridge St., Catskill. Sheriff candidate Diana Benoit recently joined forces with the Buas and presented her views to the Legislature on Wednesday.
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    A local group of investors is interested in buying the old Greene County Jail on Bridge Street in Catskill, but Deputy Greene County Administrator Warren Hart said the property is not for sale.
June 20, 2019 05:46 pm Updated: June 24, 2019 12:03 pm

 

CATSKILL — Greene County sheriff candidate Diana Benoit addressed the Legislature Wednesday night regarding the future of the former county jail and the size and location of the new facility. Benoit was asked to speak by the Greene County Taxpayers Association on the association's behalf.

Benoit recently joined forces with Catskill resident Cassidy Bua. Bua, along with a group of investors, expressed interest in purchasing the old jail at 80 Bridge St., Catskill, and repurposing the building. Sale of the property has to be approved by the county Legislature, Deputy Administrator Warren Hart said.

The county has reserved $500,000 to demolish the old jail and the former sheriff’s office, which moved to Coxsackie. A historic carriage house nearby will remain intact.

“Our positions align,” Benoit said Thursday, referring to the Greene County Taxpayers Association. “We do need a jail in Greene County but it needs to be scaled back from what it is now and it should be in Catskill.”

Given the state criminal justice reforms that will go into effect in January, including the elimination of cash bail, the size of the jail is too large, Benoit said.

The county reduced the size to 48 beds after the reforms, which is expected to drop the price tag by $3.5 million.

Benoit, a former state police investigator, is challenging Peter Kusminsky, another retired state police investigator, in Tuesday’s primary for the Republican nomination to run for sheriff.

Kusminsky said Thursday the size of the jail is appropriate.

“Forty-eight beds actually translates to one male pod with 32 cells,” he said. “Commission of Corrections requires 10% be open. You need one or two medical and one or two for one-on-one observation, which would put us in the 26 range.”

Moving the jail from Catskill to Coxsackie does not make sense, Benoit said.

“A majority of the people we will be housing there will need to go to county court,” she said. “It makes sense to keep it in Catskill. We are going to incur greater transportation costs.”

Benoit asked lawmakers to reconsider siting of the jail and look for a suitable site in Catskill.

The board did not respond to the request.

County Administrator Shaun Groden said Wednesday groundbreaking in Coxsackie is likely late next week.

Kusminsky said he agreed that a more central location such as Catskill or Cairo would have been preferred, but he understands the county’s decision.

“The county was given the property next to the two state facilities where there would be no issues of a correctional facility being located in a residential or commercial area,” Kusminsky said.

Only about 30% of the transports go to county court, Kusminsky said.

The county had considered several alternative sites for a new jail. One possibility was an unfinished subdivision behind Save A Lot in Coxsackie.

“It was determined that it was the last developable piece of property that could come onto the village tax roll,” Groden said. “We did not want to take away that final frontier from the community.”

The county also considered building the jail near the 911 center or the mental health building in Cairo, Groden said, but the configuration of the land was not right.

To save the old facility, Benoit said it would be beneficial.

“If we sell the building, we save $500,000, we have the potential to make money from the sale and we preserve history,” she said.

The jail opened in 1905.

Kusminsky said he would not object to saving the building as long as it does not become a burden for taxpayers.

Meg Nowack, with Historic Catskill, emphasized the historical significance of the property to the Legislature.

“The East side of the village is a nationally registered historic area,” Nowack said Thursday. “That is nothing to sneeze that.”

In addition to getting permission from the state Historic Preservation Office, demolition plans must be reviewed by the village planning board, she said.

When the buildings were constructed, people were relying on horse power, Nowack said.

“To ignore that legacy is irresponsible in a sense and it’s really sad,” she said. “They worked really hard to build those buildings and we’re just going to ignore that. It’s disrespectful.”

The village’s historical assets have decreased over time, Nowack said.

“To take another one down seems backwards to me,” Nowack said.

The county does not have firm plans for the property at this time.

Bua’s group wants to turn the building into a criminal justice museum for research opportunities and vocational training.

“We want people to get vocational training and get help so they don’t end up in the jail system,” Bua said.

Greene County Taxpayers Association President Wayne Sheridan hopes to bring in the Catholic Worker Movement to provide a safe space for recovering addicts, the homeless and people in need of transitional housing, he said.

Sheridan said he supports the idea of a museum.

“It would be dedicated to law enforcement and could date back to the 17th century,” he said. “It would be a great tourist attraction.”

This type of museum is not unheard of, Sheridan said.Hudson has a museum dedicated to firefighting.

Catskill Village Trustee Joseph Kozloski supports the idea of the county selling the property, he said.

“I would like to see it sold to a person who is going to bring the property back on the tax rolls,” he said. “It would be a win for the village, a win for the town and a win for the county.”

The village has more than 100 tax-exempt properties, Kozloski said.

“Taxpayers are footing the bill,” he said.

The proposal may resurface at a Public Safety Committee meeting, Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said Thursday.

“We have not discussed as a group to do anything but demolish it yet,” he said.

Public Safety Committee Chairman William Lawrence, R-Cairo, or Linger have the authority to add the topic to the agenda. The next Public Safety Committee meeting is July 8.

 

Comments
I have been a Catskill area Resident my whole life. I've seen stupid ideas come and go. The jail? Good riddence. It should be knocked down. Sheriff Seeley and the Sheriffs before him let it go to pot and it's a wreck. It also was cited for lack of recreation area per its square footage. It's would be a drag on the Village's tax base. Tear it down for a parking lot, much needed by the library that enters on Clarke Street, for traffic to have a way in that doesn't require entering on busy Bridge Street. It would still be just across the street from the library. Reserve half the land for a private sale to get it back on the tax roll. Forget the stupid jail museum idea. It's creepy. The Buas have a money backer? Who? Let's see the money. I see all talk and no money here. Let's stop wasting the public's time on this side issue.

The stop the jail people have a point if we can house our people in Albany or Ulster or Columbia. But, this issue is a distraction, and the two sheriff candidates are looking pretty dumb endorsing it in my opinion. - Harry, Cairo
Call me whatever you want, but call me for dinner.

I am an engineer. A systems engineer. I’ve also been housed in the Greene County jail, as both a detainee and convicted criminal. My convictions were reversed and dismissed, I was simply acting as any parent would and should after 9/11. Shame on Greene County for abusing myself and family, I am suing you. I also paused and forced rethinking of the jail issue 2 years ago, leading the the ATI Committee.

As an engineer I most often think how to do something, what’s the most efficient, what’s the most affordable. As this jail boondoggle nightmare progressed we saw immense corruption, RicciGreene lied in providing too high estimates of need, 150 beds! They were fired, I was in the room when they were fired. We have under 30 detainees at the moment, which will drop bellow 20 when the just justice reforms thoroughly kick in.

There’s absolutely no need for the monster in Coxsackie.

Look carefully at this. A loan of &38 million (Hunter Skibowl sold for $38 million!), taking an additional $8 million from reserves (but Peter Markou has no money set aside for county employee retirement of health care - an amount he estimates is $42 million and as much as $110 million on some models). There’s absolutely no indication the local economy is going to grow significantly. The property values and sales tax are flat for the last 4 years. We have a 7% decline I. The last population census.

All the money leaves the county... the construction companies are not Greene County companies, RicciGreene, Delaware, Pike, SMRT are not Greene County companies. The interest to USDA leaves Greene County. Maintenance and operations costs are quite high since there can be no geothermal at this site, it’s soil is clay and not porous.

Fixing 80 Bridge Street is certainly feasible, even if unpopular. The building is obviously usable, otherwise it wouldn’t be convertible to a museum, etc. the new section is defective, but due to the numbers we have the 16 holding cells in the original part are adequate, supplementing the shared/regional jail as needed. Using adjoining jail cells is perfectly legal, and genuinely cost effective.

Know that our Assemblyman Tague sabotaged the legislative modification of County Law 216, pathetic. But it’s not needed, we’re sharing already.

Today is the celebration of Washing Irving’s fine story of Rio Van Winkle. The Village of Catskill logo has Rip asleep. The point of the story is that in his 20 years of sleep he transformed himself and woke up. Greene County, now, is the asleep Rip.

Restore the 80 Bridge Street facility removing the new portions. Reconvene ATI as a funded standing committee to manage our non-court justice and social service operations. Certify the Sheriff’s office to prevent another “Worst Offender” labeling, we don’t need that branding. We don’t need branding that says we’re asleep or spend wildly on human cages instead of education and new money business development.