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Regional jail option is real but fading

May 23, 2019 10:01 pm

Until this week, it’s fairly safe to say few people in this area ever heard of Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

Lentol, a Brooklyn Democrat from the 50th Assembly District who chairs the Codes Committee, could soon be a household name.

In an interview Wednesday, Lentol sent shock waves through the establishment by saying we could have a regional jail to serve two counties, and that includes Greene. Hey, he added, it’s no big deal.

“I think it’s something that’s necessary,” he said. “We don’t need to be building jails necessarily in every county.” The state’s criminal justice reforms make the timing for regional jail legislation ideal, he added.

“We’re entering a new era where we want to reduce prison size and stop the prison brigade in our state,” Lentol said. “I hope this will start a trend to downsize our criminal population.”

Greene County residents will not have to shoulder the tax burden of a new jail, Lentol said. “It’s a win all the way around,” he said.

The Codes Committee meets weekly and a bill could be introduced this week or next week.

For Greene County taxpayers, however, Lentol’s words are more encouraging than his timing. The estimated $66 million jail project is about a week away from receiving its final permits. Construction will begin if the county Legislature fails to receive a clear answer from the state about an existing law on shared jails.

The spectre of breach-of-contract lawsuits filed by contractors hovers if the county Legislature can turn this jail project around, but if no contracts have been signed and no money paid, there are no breaches.

Simply, time is ticking down to zero to reverse the course. It may not be the Taj Mahal, but Greene County is on the verge of building a jail that will cost taxpayers tens of millions for a relative handful of inmates. The Legislature is on pace to be haunted for years by a brief, nagging question: What if?

ironically it is NOT good news that the county now proposes reducing the size of the jail to 64 beds (in light of justice reform coming from albany). There is NO commensurate construction cost savings. A mere $3.5 million. So now the per-bed cost to build a too-large jail to house 10, 12, 17 prisoners is astronomical. Greene County Legislators are getting that message. With hundreds of empty beds in neighboring counties - NOW IS THE time for our legislators to pause and rethink the fiscal implication of a 30 year debt that will cripple our county and hopes of sensible community and economic development.
I sat in all the Safety, Finance, ATI, engineering and monthly legislature meetings. There's almost no savings reducing the monster in Cocsackie. It was scaled incorrectly at the outset, 134 + 16 or 150 cells/beds/pods/human cages. Ricci Greene was hired to give artificially large numbers. When the couldn't back them up they were fired. We have just 29 detainees at this time. When bail reform, Raise The Age, better discovery rules, and better defense kicks in this will drop to 20 and even less. The shared/regional jail solution is already legal, it's how we're operating now.

This county's already wasted nearly $5 million on unusable plans. Not a shovel of dirt is turned. The Coxsackie site is inappropriate and expensive. Because it's clay all services must be brought in, it's $8 million just to great ground. Because it's clay a 6' pit the dimensions of the buildings must be dug, filled with gravel, on which the buildings float. Concrete can't be on clay directly. Because it's clay there can't be any geothermal, which requires porous soil.

80 Bridge Street can be restored, the adjacent library and courthouse were. County laws 216 and 217 require that the sheriff's office remain in the county seat, but the county moved it. All of this has to stop.

Most importantly, the Alternative To Incarceration committee must reconvene and reasess. We are rated 2nd worse offender in terms of how we treat detainees by SCOC.

Finally, there's just no money here for a new jail. We were at the very top of the 2% property tax cap for each of the last 4 years. The property values are flat for that same period. Sales tax, similarly, a flat trend line for 4 years. No one predicts a swell in our local economy, certainly not enough to cover what I calculate as $90 million. All of the $28 million in interest, and all of the contractor money's simply leave Greene County. No construction company is from here.

Wake up Greene County. Enough already.
Groden and Linger LIED THEIR HEADS OFF at the Legislative meeting that considered Legislator Bulich's reasonable proposal that the jail be placed on pause. These quotes from the attorney who just reviews the so-called "signed contracts' cited by Groden, Kaplan and Linger at that May 15 meeting:

"Of particular interest, and deeply troubling, is the fact that none of these contracts were signed by County Attorney Edward Kaplan until AFTER the May 15, 2019 county legislative meeting at which discussion was had of delaying and/or not implementing these contracts. Despite those discussions, the contracts were signed by Mr. Kaplan on May 23, 2019, AFTER the state criminal justice reforms were passed – which, it is well known, will significantly reduce the number of individuals held in pretrial detention in county jails throughout the state.

During the May 15, 2019 county legislative meeting, County Administrator Shaun Groden – with Mr. Kaplan, his attorney, sitting at his side – spoke repeatedly about the existence of liquidated damages clauses in the jail construction contracts, which would be payable if the contracts were not implemented. There is no provision for liquidated damages in any of the four contracts. The suggestion that there are liquidated damages clauses in these contracts is simply a falsehood, and any attorney who does this work would or should know that."

Groden, Martinez, Linger, Lawrence and others have been opaque and dissembling throughout their aggressive and deception riddled push for a new jail based on Sheriff Seeley's fake numbers. These are nice ways of saying they have been lying flagrantly and arrogantly to the voters and public.

They lied to push through their approval for an unnecessary bond approval for an unneeded new jail. And they lied about "liquidated damages that would be owed if we pause." They lied about there "already being a signed contract" and they lied about the terms they represented that contract contained.

The public is urged to attend tonight's meeting if they're tired of being lied to they should let the legislators know, whether Mr. Linger has given them permission to speak or not.
Dear USDA and Friends:

The enclosed letter asks USDA not to sign contracts or lend money to Greene County for a new jail in Coxsackie.

Only a few options remain to prevent the monster in Coxsackie, which I estimate raises taxes 16% for 30 years.

1. My law suit in Albany Supreme Court
2. A denial by USDA to approve the contracts, or
3. A breakthrough by our legislators

While some disagree, the legal strategy supporting rehab of the 80 Bridge Street Sheriff’s Office (keeping the old section of beds) integrates the argument that moving the Sheriff’s Office was illegal with all the other legal and social reasons to block the monster in Coxsackie.

Some suggest that justice my insistence of local justice reform is illusive, we have a horrible local justice system and it must be overhauled. That opinion is shared by other professionals such as the State Commission of Corrections who rated us a “worst offender." We must take hold of these processes and reset the county to simply be nicer to each other. This turns out to be less expensive. Imagine that.


Scott Myers
Four Seasons Motel
5063 Rte. 32, Room 14
Catskill, NY 12414
(518) 291-8169

Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science (Buckminster Fuller)