Psychologists call it deja vu — the distinct impression of having had the same experience before. For the Greene County Legislature, that’s what it is.
The state Commission of Correction awarded the legislature a split decision on the new Greene County Jail. The commission approved the proposal to build a new 80-bed jail — but also strongly recommended building a larger facility.
Well, here we go again. Maybe.
In its letter to county officials, the commission expressed serious concerns about the 80-bed design, which was reduced from 96 beds. The commission wrote there is doubt about an 80-bed jail meeting Greene County’s long-term capacity needs without having to build additional bed space shortly after opening.
If changes have to be made to the jail proposal, the project will be sent back to the Legislature. If the Legislature decides to follow the commission’s recommendation and build a bigger jail, the entire plan has to make another round through the legislative committees and then to the full Legislature. This could delay the project another three to six months.
That’s a lot of ifs, and a lot of questions that must be answered. How will a larger jail affect the current $39 million price tag? Will a bigger jail win support from lawmakers who voted in favor of the 80-bed proposal? How are local crime rates trending? What will happen if the Legislature rejects a bigger jail and the commission refuses to back away from its recommendation?
For two years, the jail debate generated turmoil among taxpayers and produced unexpected and unorthodox political divisions between lawmakers. Alternatives-to-Incarceration programs may help keep the jail’s capacity down, but that isn’t guaranteed. The county can board out inmates, but that is what’s happening now, without a jail.
None of us wants to see the Legislature walk the jail project path again, starting from square one. The Commission of Correction is going to take a lot of convincing. Greene County taxpayers might be in for a long winter.