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Round 2 of the jail battle begins

November 30, 2018 12:31 am

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.

I predicted exactly this farce at my statements at public hearings regarding the "Jail Bond" proposal. The Green County Legislature is a fraud. Their jail is a cockamamie amateurish piece of non-planning if ever there was one, concocted mainly to guarantee really expensive jail jobs as a local subsidy to the bloated Sheriff's budget.

Darned right, "we're boarding out prisoners right now." What we should be doing is investing several thousand at most in research and negotiations to legally codify and contract our various arrangements with adjacent counties who have GROSS OVERCAPACITY in jail cell space and services that we're already farming detainees out to. Legal, handicapped compliant, supervisor compliant solutions for our fluctuating population of detainees in need is already in existence - just not all under one roof to the mysterious seeming benefit an proprietary interest of Palmateer and Martinez judging from the venom and hostility they put on display when alternatives to incarceration and regional solutions to detainee traffic are raised.

Elsewhere in today's paper I have to read about how my water's not fit to drink because there's been too much rain so I should be prepared to pay for a new system wide filter in the form of higher water charges- that's a tax and a bond too, even though it's not covered by local taxes. There a lot of games being played out on the taxpayers of Greene County and the excuses are wearing thin.