Cost is part of the conversation about the proposed new Greene County Jail, as it has been for most of the last two years. This time, however, the bills are coming in for boarding Greene inmates in the Columbia and Ulster county jails.
Greene County paid Ulster County around $21,000 in May to house inmates at the Ulster County Jail, but at a rate of $75 per day, per inmate, not including medical costs, the overall bill for May and June could add up to more than $90,000.
Fifteen inmates are housed at the Columbia County Jail, according to Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matt Murell. (Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden put that figure at 25). Let’s say 20 inmates. Based on Groden’s information that the county’s rate of $75 per day per inmate is the same at all boarding jails and assuming all 20 inmates stay all 30 days in the month of June, the bill comes to around $45,000, not including medical costs.
So, adding in some health-care costs, Greene County’s total bill for three months of boarding inmates at Columbia and Ulster county jails could be approximately $150,000. And that is unofficial — Greene County is awaiting an invoice from Ulster County for the month of June.
Greene County lawmakers have talked about the challenge facing them over choosing to build a new jail or, at this point, maintaining the status quo and continue boarding inmates at Columbia and Ulster. In other words, the Legislature is getting an early taste of life without a jail in Greene County.
To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, $50,000 here and $50,000 there and pretty soon, you’re talking about real money. To top it off, the financial uncertainties of both build and share options haven’t gone away. The next time the jail feasibility study is proposed again — and it should be — lawmakers would be wise to approve it and start taking care of business.