CDM_zuckerman_jail man on the street

CDM_zuckerman_jail man on the street

Submitted by Daniel Zuckerman Columbia-Greene Media on Tue, 09/04/2018 - 09:11 pm

Twin County residents share thoughts on Greene jail project

CATSKILL — As the Greene County Legislature grapples with a $39 million bond resolution to help pay for a new county jail in Coxsackie, Twin County residents shared their thoughts about what the county should do ahead of tonight’s vote at the legislature’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

Passage by the Public Safety Committee means the resolution will come to a vote at the legislature’s Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Sept. 17. From there it could be voted on by the full legislature Sept. 19. The new jail would be built behind the Greene Correctional Facility off Route 9W in Coxsackie.

Greene County reaction

A new jail built in Greene County is crucial because the existing jail is beyond repair, Bruce Jackson, of Catskill, said, adding Catskill and Hudson residents are at odds.

“There is a lot of friction between Catskill and Hudson,” Jackson said. “We actually do need one [a jail].”

Jackson knows the importance of having a new jail — he was an officer at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility from 1975 to 1981. He wondered about how much training correctional officers have received.

“We had to go to training for six months,” he said. “They [new corrections officers] look like they just got out of high school.”

A shared jail with Columbia County will save the taxpayers money and corrections officers can be given other jobs to do, William Wynne, of Catskill, said.

“If it doesn’t get overpopulated it should be all right, but if it gets overpopulated then they don’t have a choice but to build another jail,” Wynne said.

Greene County needs a new jail, but it should be built in an abandoned hotel such as the former Friar Tuck Inn on Route 32 in Kiskatom, John Kemble, of Catskill, said.

“Why don’t they turn that into a jail?” Kemble said.

A shared jail concept won’t save Greene County money in the long term, Kemble said.

“You’ll get more revenue if you keep people here,” he said.

Columbia County reaction

Greene County lawmakers should continue pursuing construction of a new jail, Kwesi Gray, of Hudson, said, adding lawmakers would never suggest two counties sharing a school district. The jail should be no different.

“There should be a separate jail for each county,” Gray said.

The area does not need any more jails and a shared facility is the better option in the event that it’s needed, Kim Wheeler, of Westerlo, said as she walked along Warren Street in Hudson. Many of Wheeler’s neighbors support building a jail in Coxsackie.

“I think still, less people in jail, the better,” she said.

Construction of a new Greene County Jail will be a multi-million-dollar project, but if the county can afford the bill without a handout, then it should be built, Robert Michel, of Hudson, said.

“You’ve got to put them [inmates] someplace,” Michel said.

The Finance Committee on May 14 shelved a resolution to authorize a bond worth $51.4 million for a new county jail opting instead to explore cost savings. The bond amount was reduced to $39 million thanks to $4 million in cuts to the jail’s design and the county’s ability to offset project costs by using its fund balance — leftover funds amassed from budgets of previous years — to reduce the amount the county has to borrow. This past year’s fund balance was $11 million.

The existing Greene County Jail on Bridge Street in Catskill was closed April 20 for safety reasons after it was ranked as one of the worst jails in the state in February by the state Commission of Corrections.

The Bridge Street jail could be bound for demolition once results from an asbestos evaluation are presented to county officials in September or October.

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.