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Workshop to look at reducing jail costs

A map of the proposed new Greene County Jail site in Coxsackie.
May 29, 2018 11:49 pm

CATSKILL — A marathon special session of the Greene County Legislature on reducing the $51.4 million cost of building a new jail in Coxsackie will be held today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the county office building’s Caucus Room.

A bond resolution authorizing $51.4 million in serial bonds to cover the cost of building a new county jail behind the Greene Correctional Facility off Route 9W in Coxsackie was shelved at the Greene County Legislature’s Finance Committee meeting May 14 as a way to explore cost savings.

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

Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden will chair the meeting. He will be joined by representatives of Latham-based SMRT Architects and Engineers, P.C., the project architect, and the Pike Company of Rochester, the construction manager.

Discussion will focus solely on the Coxsackie site, Groden said. The proposal to share a county jail with Columbia County will not be discussed.

“It’s a review to see if there’s any cuts to be made on the Coxsackie option,” Groden said. “This is not a place to discuss the options of Columbia County and Coxsackie — that’s not what we’re doing here.”

Details such as eliminating square footage from the design, the type of brick considered for construction and the electrical system will be discussed, Groden said.

The architectural and construction representatives may take ideas from the meeting and research them.

The full-day meeting will be exploratory in nature, Groden said.

“It’s really going to be an in-the-weeds discussion,” he said. “I don’t expect definitive decisions.”

Groden, the representatives and legislators will look at costs through a value engineering lens, Groden said. Value engineering analyzes building features and equipment to achieve essential functions at the lowest cost consistent with quality and reliability, according to the U.S. General Services Administration website.

For example, installing LED lighting may cost more, but it will have long-term savings as less energy is used, Groden said.

“It makes sense to make that capital type of expense,” he said. “That will have a cost impact.”

Critics argue that the cost of a new jail is prohibitive and will saddle a generation of county taxpayers with debt. It remains to be seen if any savings will be realized after the meeting, Groden said.

“Everyone’s conscious of the price, everyone’s conscious of the impact,” Groden said.

A solution has to be found soon because repairing the existing jail is not an option, Legislator Linda Overbaugh, R-Catskill, said.

“You’ve got to just pull the plug sometime,” Overbaugh said.

Overbaugh is hopeful that some cost savings will emerge from the meeting. She has been working on the jail project for more than five years.

Costs will continue to rise if nothing is done, Overbaugh said.

“We’re at a deadlock right now,” she said. “We’ve got to find some ways to compromise on both sides.”

A $7 million contingency for emergencies could be reduced because the jail design is solid, Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo, said.

“I don’t think there’s going to be too many change orders or overruns,” Lawrence said. “There’s no sense borrowing money if we’re not going to use it.”

The Greene County’s Sheriff’s Office should not be discarded from the design because it will become more expensive to an office not housed in the jail, Lawrence said.

“I think its penny-wise and pound-foolish to eliminate that,” he said.

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

Groden is crooked and operates in bad faith. He should be fired. We have a clean way already to save $50M - don't build a new jail in Coxsackie. Instead share facilities available with Columbia County. Groden belligerently attempts to dodge this simple truth. No one "elected" Groden. He is a flunky of vested Republican interests who are in favor of the "opportunities" building a "new Greene County jail" might 'avail' them of. We like the shared jail, saved money, lose several unnecessary jailers on Seeley's payroll solution a lot more!!
Groden's whole premise and Lawrence's are bad faith because they'r not open to discussing models based on a share jail where immense savings are to be achieved. Instead they are trying to play the game of "do we want LED lights or not in our New Coxsackie Super Jail?" (Answer: "we don't want your Coxsackie Super Jail!)