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It’s all or nothing

June 14, 2018 12:00 am

If the proponents of a Greene County Jail shared with Columbia County are feeling a bit more vindicated today, they have good reason.

After two marathon workshop sessions attended by architects, construction managers and a handful of county legislators tasked with finding items to cut from the jail project to whittle down the $51.4 million cost, the line score was this: 28 total items, five undetermined, savings $4 million

That’s right: Consultants and lawmakers put in the better part of a planned 12 hours of meetings and came up with a paltry cost reduction of $4 million. As they once said in old Hollywood, hardly enough to pay for the pool maintenance.

In response to the second session, held Tuesday, Legislator Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie, announced he would not attend. “What’s the sense of going?” Martinez said Monday. “It’s not going to change anything.”

About the best thing that can be said is that Martinez was almost right. We wanted to think that enough fat was built into the project so that deep cuts could be made and bring the cost of the new jail down to a manageable and sensible level.

After all, if Herkimer County can build a new jail for around $32 million, why can’t Greene County do the same?

The two workshops were held (a third scheduled for next week was canceled) to identify what could be left out of a new jail and still make it a viable option. The best to come out of this was a new sheriff’s office and road patrol area, and a maintenance building for around $3.5 million. The rest amounted to chump change.

A $4 million cut is too little — and, we’re afraid, too late — to make the project affordable to taxpayers. Principal architect Arthur Thompson added a nail to the coffin when he said, “It’s all or nothing. Once you start taking spaces out, what can we do?”

It’s premature to declare the new Greene County Jail project dead, but it wouldn’t be going far astray to say this $51.4 million boondoggle is on life support.