Greene County paid Ulster County around $21,000 in May to house inmates at the Ulster County Jail after the shutdown of the Greene County Jail, but with the rate the county pays to outsource inmate housing to Ulster County, the overall bill could end up at more than $90,000.
Greene County closed its jail April 20 when officials concluded that the 110-year-old building was unsafe for inmates and staff. Greene County began boarding its inmates in Columbia and Ulster counties.
“We sent all but one inmate to Ulster County,” said Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden. “Then we sent that one inmate to Albany County.”
Ulster County is housing 31 Greene County inmates in its jail as of Friday. Inmate populations change frequently.
Greene County paid Ulster County around $21,000 for housing inmates in May, Groden said. Greene County pays a rate of $75 per day per inmate, plus health costs. That means in June, the cost could be as much as $69,750, with the exception of fluctuations in inmate population and health costs. Groden has not received an invoice for June from Ulster County.
Greene County houses inmates in the Columbia County Jail and has done so for several years, Groden said.
“I was only maintaining half the prison population in the jail when we shut the rest of the jail down,” Groden said. “We paid Columbia County about $625,000 last year to house our inmates.”
Greene County has about 15 inmates housed in the Columbia County Jail, Columbia County supervisors chairman Matt Murell said, and the county pays the same rate to Columbia County as it does to Ulster County.
Greene County legislators, who have been working to get a consensus on what to do next to replace the old county jail, characterized the costs as an impetus to show a sense of urgency to come to a solution.“Right now we have to do this because we do not have a jail,” Greene County Legislator Mike Bulich, R-Catskill, said.
Bulich supports Greene County sharing a jail with Columbia County, but said if the county goes forward building its own jail, which Bulich said is looking likely right now, higher costs to the county might lay ahead.
The Greene County Legislature on June 20 defeated a resolution to authorize a feasibility study on sharing a jail with Columbia County.
Bulich cited the costs of paying all jail employees, who Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley vowed in May would not lose their jobs while the jail is closed, as a continuing expense that could get out of hand.
The building of a new jail could take up to three years, Bulich said.
“We can’t keep taxing taxpayers to pay for jobs that are not needed right now,” Bulich said. “These are the first bills coming in since we shut down the jail in April. So you are seeing a snapshot of what’s to come.”
Greene County Legislator Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie, is calling on other legislators to get on board with the plan to build a new Greene County Jail.
“The meter is running and we are also paying architects and engineers at the same time,” Martinez said. “It is time for everyone to get on the same page. We should have voted on this by now. Something has to be done.”
Martinez and Legislator Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said they are hopeful there will be enough votes to pass a bond resolution for the building of a new jail.
The Finance Committee shelved a resolution May 14 to authorize $51.4 million in serial bonds for a new county jail behind the medium-security Greene Correctional Facility off Route 9W in Coxsackie to explore cost savings. The bond amount has since been whittled down to $39 million.
Bonding for the lower amount is possible because the county will apply money from its fund balance toward the jail. The fund balance is a surplus from previous years’ budgets, which results in less money the county has to borrow, Groden said. The project cost of $47.2 million remains the same.
“We are hoping that dropping the amount we are borrowing may get more legislators on board,” Linger said.
The legislature needs a majority to pass a resolution that authorizes the county to pay back money that will be borrowed, but a super-majority is needed to pass the bond resolution, Linger said.
“We are pretty close on this,” Linger said. “We are still working on it.”