CDM_zuckerman_catskill jail throwdown

CDM_zuckerman_catskill jail throwdown

Staff reports
Submitted by Daniel Zuckerman Columbia-Greene Media on Wed, 08/30/2017 - 11:12 pm

Jail still a hot topic issue for legislators

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 or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM