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County stops sheriff’s office sell-off

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    The exterior of the existing Greene County Sheriff’s Office on Bridge Street in Catskill. An unauthorized auction of its interior occurred last month.
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    A local group of investors is interested in buying the old Greene County Jail on Bridge Street in Catskill, but Deputy Greene County Administrator Warren Hart said the property is not for sale.
July 9, 2019 05:39 pm

CATSKILL — County lawmakers briefly addressed an unauthorized auction Monday night that took place last month at the former sheriff’s office.

The former jail, located 80 Bridge St., closed in April 2018 after being deemed unfit for operation. Contractors broke ground on a new jail off Route 9W in Coxsackie earlier this month.

Along with the jail, the sheriff’s office relocated to Coxsackie in February, to a temporary processing center on Mansion Street. The county is leasing the building for three years until the jail, with new office, is completed.

Catskill resident Pat Ruck addressed legislators about pieces of the sheriff’s office being sold off.

“A lovely couple came to stay at my Airbnb from the upstate area,” Ruck said Tuesday.

Ruck declined to give the names of her guests.

“They told me, ‘We won this auction and we’re building a house and want to put in wonderful features,” Ruck said.

The guests told Ruck their winning bid was $700.

“They spent two days in the building [the sheriff’s office] taking doors off,” Ruck said, adding that a deputy watched over them.

The guests stayed with Ruck from June 8-10. A deputy was posted at the sheriff’s office June 10.

Ruck’s guests had come in a compact car, so they stacked the doors and were planning to come back for them, she said.

“They were going to come back with a flatbed to take the staircase out,” she said. “And they said they were going to need helpers to take all they bid on.”

Kitchen items from the sheriff’s office were authorized to be surplused and sold at a Public Safety meeting June 5, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said Tuesday.

“I haven’t determined how we went from kitchen equipment to wood molding,” he said.

The equipment sold for $5,000 and five wood doors sold for $250, Groden said.

“Someone was trying to reach our Buildings and Grounds to get in and remove molding,” Groden said. “So we shut it down.”

Groden is unsure who was in charge of posting items on the auction website, he said, adding he is trying to retrieve the items.

The jail, which opened in 1905, is a historical asset to the community, Meg Nowack with Historic Catskill said last month.

“The east side of the village is a nationally registered historic area,” Nowack said. “That is nothing to sneeze at.”

The county plans to demolish the sheriff’s office and the jail but leave the historic carriage house on the property, which would require extensive review, Nowack said.

When the buildings were constructed, people were relying on horsepower, Nowack said.

“To ignore that legacy is irresponsible, in a sense, and it’s really sad,” she said. “They worked really hard to build those buildings and we’re just going to ignore that. It’s disrespectful.”

The village’s historical assets have decreased over time, Nowack said.

“To take another one down seems backwards to me,” Nowack said.

At Monday’s meeting, Groden said he put a stop to the auction when he learned what was happening.

“Maybe they gave them their $700 back,” Ruck said.

Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, wanted to know where the keys to the old jail were.

Groden said he didn’t know.

“I asked that question last month,” Bulich said.

Groden said he did not recall being asked that before.

“There is no reason for Mike Spitz to have those keys,” Bulich said. “Our building and grounds superintendent, Bill Smith, should have them.”

The Legislature will discuss the future of the old jail at a workshop meeting on July 24 at 6 p.m.

The county’s current plan is to demolish the sheriff’s office and jail but leave the historic carriage house on the property intact, Deputy Administrator Warren Hart said.

Five hundred thousand dollars has been set aside for the demolition.

Due to the historic significance of the property, the county must get permission from the state Historic Preservation Office and the village planning board for demolition, Nowack said.

Birchwood Archaeology evaluated the old jail property for significant artifacts and found nothing of importance, Hart said in June.

“Now they are looking at the structure itself,” he said.

The county does not have firm plans for the property at this time, Hart said.

“At the least, we ‘re going to use it for parking,” he said.

Recently a group of investors, spearheaded by Catskill resident Cassidy Bua has expressed interest in buying the property.

Sale of the property has to be approved by the Legislature, Hart said.

Bua’s group wants to turn the building into a criminal justice museum for research opportunities and vocational training.

Greene County Taxpayers Association President Wayne Sheridan, who is working alongside Bua, hopes to bring in the Catholic Worker Movement to provide a safe space for recovering addicts, the homeless and people in need of transitional housing, he said.

The simple solution is to tear down the new part of the 80 Bridge Street facility and rehab the rest. No legitimate assessment for this was made, it was actively avoided. With justice reform now fully promulgated we will have under 20 detainees, probably as low as 10. There is plenty of space for this at the jail. With the new portion torn down the undersized rec yard can be replaced.

The old sheriff’s office and county jail were recently placed on the state historic register, making the demolition problematic. It is built properly and can be restored, built at the same time and with the same methods as the courthouse and library. These were both restored very nicely, and by using existing funds not a giant loan.

The jail was closed because of poor management. SCOC rated this sheriff’s office a Worst Offender. Email to and from SCOC shows that SCOC was placated, people were harmed by the poor behavior of Greg Seeley and Michael Spitz. FOIL COC correspondence between COC and Greene County.

No, you don’t reward bad behavior with a new fancy clubhouse in Coxsackie. Groden apparently can’t control Michael Spitz.