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Jail still a hot topic issue for legislators

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    Greene County Legislators Matt Luvera, R-Catskill, Linda Overbaugh, R-Catskill, and Mike Bulich, R-Catskill, discussing matters surrounding the new Greene County Jail project Tuesday.
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    Former Greene County Legislator Joseph Izzo, of Catskill, speaking about the new Greene County Jail project at the Kiskatom Fire Department.
August 30, 2017 11:12 pm

KISKATOM — Money matters — especially when it comes to the proposed new Greene County Jail.

Discussion of the jail continued Tuesday at the Kiskatom Fire House during a special meeting hosted by Greene County legislators Matt Luvera, Mike Bulich and Linda Overbaugh, who all represent Catskill. The meeting was held so the lawmakers could hear from residents about matters of concern in the county.

The cost of the bond for the project is $44 million and Bulich said if rates go up for bonding, the county would be saving money because of cost-cutting measures.

“It’s an important issue for taxpayers and to the county itself,” Bulich said Wednesday.

Bulich is concerned about overbuilding the jail and having unused space. If the square footprint can be shrunk in order to save money it is worth exploring, Bulich said Wednesday.

“We can’t afford to have taxpayers to pay for square-footage that won’t be used,” Bulich said. “With a little logistics planning, all the rooms can be used.”

The daily inmate population for the Greene County Jail over the past few years has been on average in the 50s and Luvera said an 80-bed facility would be sufficient.

“In the future, if there is a population increase, then we have room for expansion and we set the infrastructure in place so future legislators down the road are not going to have the burden that we have,” Luvera said.

Bulich compared overbuilding the jail to rooms in the Greene County Office Building that are barely used.

“We walk into our legislative chambers, that nice beautiful room — it gets used for one hour, once a month,” Bulich said. “Other than that, that square footage is not being used at all — that’s government for you.”

There has been plenty of discussion within legislative meetings where Bulich is confident that the jail will not be overbuilt and the legislators can push a new structure plan.

“It originally started out at 130 beds and with double-bunking would have been 156,” Bulich said. “We’re down in the 100, 80 to 100 range.”

The idea of Greene County inmates sent to the Columbia County Jail on a permanent basis brought concerns from former Greene County Legislator Joseph Izzo, of Catskill. Unlike Columbia-Greene Community College, the Columbia County Jail would not be a joint partnership between the two counties as Greene County would have no investment in it and Columbia County would control the costs, Izzo said Wednesday.

“When you have the power and you hold the cards, it’s hard to negotiate a fair and reasonable price,” Izzo said Wednesday.

Izzo believes if the two counties share a jail, ultimately Greene County residents will be paying for any future repairs to the Columbia County Jail because of the money earned from boarding out prisoners.

“You’re going down a path that goes nowhere, absolutely goes nowhere, it goes right into the dump,” Izzo said during the meeting. “It’s not financially feasible over a long period of time — once you lose control of your jail and you give it to somebody else you’re done.”

Bulich disagreed with Izzo and said the county would be paying the current rate to board out prisoners and lawmakers would negotiate a deal where both counties have a fair share of the costs.

“We would have to work out something in terms of an agreement that works for both counties,” Bulich said Wednesday.

Losing the Greene County Jail is a matter of pride for many residents, Izzo said Wednesday.

“Every other county has a jail and being from Greene County we have a jail that’s ours,” Izzo said.

Izzo is concerned about the length of time it has taken to make a decision on the bonding of the jail and said it is better to make a decision with the options the lawmakers have.

“Everything’s going up, and if you’re not making a decision, than what are you doing there?” Izzo said Wednesday. “It’s like Congress.”

Bulich said he understands Izzo’s point of view, but he said it is better not make a rush decision on the jail.

“I will only say yay to it after I feel comfortable,” Bulich said.

Luvera said he prefers to leave the current Greene County Sheriff’s Office in Catskill where it is because of the potential to save money and because Catskill is a central location. The building could be utilized for office space and to store records, Luvera said.

“When we asked about that, there was a potential $2 million savings,” Luvera said during the meeting.

The sheriff’s office building would need extensive renovation to continue operating, Overbaugh said.

“It’s not a good working space. It’s not handicapped-accessible,” Overbaugh said during the meeting.

Bulich finds that many residents want the sheriff’s office to remain in Catskill for the basic services they provide. Modernizing the current office will help the sheriff’s office staff do their jobs.

“I would be in favor of keeping road patrol in Catskill,” Bulich said.

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email dzuckerman@thedailymail.net or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM

Comments
It’s fascinating to watch the legislature begin to adjust to a) the fact the current jail was intentionally left to rot. b) the mismanagement of our local law enforcement creates significant liability and c) the county’s failed to attract tech or non-public industry so we can afford a new jail.

The jail and the courthouse were built with the same methods and materials. The courthouse was perfectly rebuilt for 13 million. The jail s next to the courthouse because that’s where it belongs.

The article’s incorrect in that the actual numbers are in the mid to low 40s, not mid 50s. As interestingly, a sober assessment notices that of these 37 simply can’t make small bail or have personal, not criminal substance abuse issues. In the 9 ATI meetings, Alternative To Incarceration, it became clear the requirements mean that social work and programs are REQUIRED. More, new methods to reduce incarceration mean there will be very few people detained. A county jail is simple a holding area pending court. That’s it.

ATI will recommend converting 80 Bridge street to a triage and treatment center, which will charge Columbia County for treatment services. The detainees will likely mostly go to Hudson. The Sheriff’s office is fine, could be rehabbed.

That’s it. GC does not have funds for more than this. Pride isn’t a reason to spend the county into the ground. No Coxaskie construction, no major new construction in Greene County. Rehab and convert. Stop using Delaware Engineerng for the same reasons the legislature stopped using Rico Greene - they’re ripping us off.
What a farce.

Message to Joe Izzo: He says: "Losing the Greene County Jail is a matter of pride for many residents," Back that up with a poll, Joe. It's not a matter of pride apparently that we send our families to Columbia Memorial Hospital, or their Community College. Why a Jail? For competent care for serious conditions, most of us go to Albany or down to NYC. So seriously, Joe Izzo, having a Jail? A jail with a less than stellar recent history, including serious allegations of sex abuse, is "a matter of pride?" Ha!!

"The daily inmate population for the Greene County Jail over the past few years has been on average in the 50s and Luvera said an 80-bed facility would be sufficient."

Matt, if we're averaging jailed individuals who are mostly unable to make bond on drug charges and bad debts, maybe we should be lowering the bail bonds for poor people who aren't accused of violent crimes? And if we're jailing people for failure to pay child support how is that getting child support paid while these incarcerated individuals are in jail? If we do THAT and start reporting the numbers honestly, we really only need jail facilities for 40 or so. A jail is not a prison. This whole ball of wax stinks of badly inflated numbers and potential fraud.

From the numbers the Sheriff coughs up when pressed - they grossly inflated the needs for a jail by basing their estimates on Mountain Jam months when their cup runnethed over with bad drug busts made during their festival season. No way should be institute $44,000,000 of debt to support that.

My question is who is providing this bonding and have any of these bankers or bond interests provided contributions to any of our local Greene County Legislators? Because they're seeking to put this county in the red for a far greater amount than has ever before been spent in this county, and not for a School, or a Hospital - BUT A JAIL??!!

This whole proposition and the Fandango between the Sheriff and NY State Corrections jokers has been suspect from the get go. Bulich and Torgeson have raised some rational questions and concerns. And Scott Meyer, a victim of the current jail, weighs in with the authenticity of direct experience.

NO JAIL and certainly NO $44,000,000 Bond that will cost taxpayers more than double that to pay off.
There's no money here. There's no industry or tech. We have a declining per-capita and population. We cannot thrive on tourism because this is no longer a resort area. There is no money for a new clubhouse in Coxsackie.

The legislature is advised to rehab the current jail, create and fund the programs recommended by it's Alternatives To Incarceration committee, and then immediately turn to creating actual commerce here with (non-public) industry and tech.

The annual budget for Greene County is $110 million. The INSANE proposal, tabled in January, almost spent 90 million on a human warehouse, a new jail. Pride isn't a reason to have a jail, and in fact, we already have one, at 80 Bridge Street, where it belongs.

While this is the "oldest county jail in the state" it was built at the same time, and with the same high-quality methods as the courthouse and the public library. Both of these structures were recently renewed and are excellent.

The jail was INTENTIONALLY left to rot so to force a new clubhouse for the Sheriff in Coxsackie. When I demanded an evaluation of the current building Mr. Grober didn't even go into the building, take any pictures or samples. I've enclosed his letter and my response.

The "proposals" from Delaware are simple to use pre fab units - off the shelf. Delaware should no longer be used for the same reasons. Ricci Greene was appropriately fired for providing conclusions without doing the actual research - when asked they could NOT provide the raw data.

Every penny for this project EXCEEDS the 2% property tax cap. Every penny of the $622,978.22 spent for Delaware Engineering, Ricci Greene and SMRT was WASTED! Not a shovel of dirt was turned. EVERY dollar left Greene County, and produced NOTHING.

The ATI committee did its own research. They held 9 biweekly meetings, which I attended. The DA, Public Defender, Head of Probation, Mental Health, Twin Counties, a retired judge and various others participated. We learned that almost all of the detainees (41 at this date) either can't make small bail or have a personal substance abuse issue. The Daily Mail article associated with this FB post is incorrect in that the actual numbers of detainees are in the low 40s, not mid 50s. We learned that most of the arrests come from the Town of Catskill police, but there's no more "crime" here than elsewhere in the county, just more police.

We learned, from the program managers, that's there's almost no useful program for the detainees, no initial triage by a social worker, no assessment by a competent mental health expert. I know, from my own experience, that obstruction of justice by Sheriff Seeley and Jail Superintendent Michael Spitz is routine.

A Public Defender Investigator can't honor attorney/client privilege because he's NOT AN ATTORNEY. This practice must be ended immediately. Overhaul of the public defender includes the new requirement that an actual attorney is present AT ALL STAGES OF THE PROCESSES - including arraignment.

Mr. Scaturo's use of a PDI must also end - immediately.

I self-defended at trial knowing the system here prevents honest defense, and I prevailed on that trial record when appealed to the 3rd Department.

It’s fascinating to watch the Legislature begin to adjust to a) the fact the current jail was intentionally left to rot. b) the mismanagement of our local law enforcement creates significant liability and c) the county’s failed to attract tech or non-public industry so we can afford a new jail.

Keep in mind that a county jail is simply a holding area pending court. That’s it. It is not a place for rehabilitation or even punishment, rehab is done in rehab centers and punishment is done in prison.

ATI will recommend converting 80 Bridge street to a triage and treatment center, which will charge Columbia County for treatment services. The detainees will likely mostly go to Hudson. The Sheriff’s office is fine, could be rehabbed.

That’s it. GC does not have funds for more than this. Pride isn’t a reason to spend the county into the ground. No Coxaskie construction, no major new construction in Greene County. Rehab and convert. Stop using Delaware Engineering for the same reasons the Legislature stopped using Rico Greene - they’re ripping us off.

We all have a responsibility to make CERTAIN that our county treats people with care, doesn't waste highly limited funds on warehouses, and then proceeds to actual commerce here like tech and industry.

Hudson just committed 10 Million for a water front tech center. Not 90 million for a sink hole in Coxsackie, which BTW doesn't include a dollar for any program or for the increased transportation costs.

Rehab the jail here, increase the acreage by buying 84 Bridge Street and create the rehab and mental health programs that are already constitutionally mandated. Clear the obstruction of justice issues that are routinely caused by Seeley and Spitz. Lower the number of deputies in the Sheriff's Office and consider eliminating the Village of Catskill Police Department.

I'm grateful to the Daily Mail for their reporting.
Alternatives to incarceration sure look better than spending $44,000,000 we don't have on a jail we don't really need. It is laughable that Izzo thinks having lots of jail space adds to a county's status.
Sorry, there is no "pride" in having a jail. It's necessary to have jail space somewhere. Not necessarily here.

We want SUNY extensions, Medical care and other great services that are now labeled "Columbia Greene" yet are all located in Columbia county. We don't need to add any jail space. It makes much better economic sense to fix what we have. The historic building would be an amazing asset as a small holding facility.