CATSKILL — A resolution to issue $44 million in serial bonds to finance construction of a new Greene County Jail was defeated in a 10-4 vote of the Greene County Legislature on Wednesday.
Legislator Matt Luvera, R-Catskill, brought up keeping the Greene County Sheriff’s administration office in Catskill to save money and asked Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden if the office was part of the original jail design. Groden said it was.
If the administration office is removed from the jail design, there is an estimated savings of $1.9 million, but the sheriff’s office on Bridge Street would have to be renovated. Groden said he did not have a cost estimate for such a project. Officers would then have to travel between Catskill and the proposed jail site in Coxsackie on runs.
“It’s not handicapped-accessible, there’s no air conditioning, it’s old and it’s tired,” Groden said of the office. “Can you stay there? Absolutely.”
Luvera used the Catskill School District’s superintendent and business offices as examples of old buildings that were renovated and turned into functioning office spaces. Luvera said residents need to be shown savings will result.
“My gut feeling tells me it will be cost-effective just because I’ve seen it done in school,” Luvera said.
Cutting 6,200 square feet out of the jail proposal can’t be done without a redesign. Groden said Luvera raised the issue of keeping the sheriff’s administration in Catskill several times over the course of eight months.
“If there is going to be a majority vote to remove the full administration from the footprint, I’ve got to stop this project now and redesign because that is going to be a major, major deviation from the footprint and the efforts that have gone into the place,” Groden said. “If you want to cut the administration, tell me to cut the administration.”
Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo, is opposed to keeping the Sheriff’s administration office in Catskill because it will be more expensive and delay the project further.
“It’s going to be a two-town operation, which is going to be expensive,” Lawrence said. “It’s very frustrating.”
Lawrence said other legislators were pressured to vote against the bond. He predicted a bond issue will not be discussed for six months.
“They all got cold feet and backed out — it was a reactionary sort of thing,” Lawrence said. “I’m going to back away from it and let others take over.”
Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, wants to see a comparison of how much it would cost of keeping the existing sheriff’s administration in Catskill and rehabbing it instead of including it in the jail project. Gardner hopes moves quickly because the state Commission of Corrections wants to see progress.
“The whole point is to find there’s a significant savings,” Gardner said. “We’re going to do a pricing analysis.”
Groden told legislators that a vote on the bond is not the final step for the project and said the dollar amount can be amended.
“This cap could be set tonight and then you could make the decision to amend the plan as it is today,” Groden said. “You could borrow $40 [million], you could borrow $32 [million] in six months without having to amend this resolution.”
Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, questioned why lawmakers were having this conversation and said this issue should have been discussed a year ago, knowing Luvera’s opinion on the sheriff’s administration office.
“We’re now basically in the 12th hour talking about this,” Bulich said. “None of you voiced your opinion that would be amicable to it changing.”
In the 18 months since the proposed jail was designed, the sheriff’s administration office was included in the plan, Groden said. In the legislature’s committee meetings, all details from square-footage to plumbing have been discussed.
“What’s always been changing are where the beds are kept,” Groden said. “That’s where all this germinates to a final master plan.”
The bond resolution’s presence on the agenda was to complete the conceptual project design but Groden said he can’t go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a final application without a complete design.
A redesign and an updated cost analysis would not be ready before the next regular legislature meeting in December because the electrical wiring and plumbing have to be changed.
“A passage of the bond resolution without a final schematic is half a loaf,” Groden said. “You’re not going to have a design in 30 days.”
Luvera said he remains confident that the legislature can find additional savings associated with jail construction. The outcome of the meeting will be to omit the sheriff’s administration from the jail design to show a cost savings, he said.
“The people know that we need a new jail and they have asked for additional cost savings,” Luvera said. “This wasn’t my voice that spoke tonight. I brought the people’s voice to the meeting.”
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