CATSKILL — County lawmakers Wednesday night authorized a contract for annual surveys for predatory birds at the new jail site.
The project involves the use of approximately 21.2 acres of habitat occupied by the Short-eared Owl, an endangered species, and the Northern Harrier, a threatened species, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
To comply with DEC’s permit for the project, the county is required to conduct winter raptor surveys, invasive species monitoring and vegetation analysis, according to the resolution.
Quenzer Environmental LLC, of Selkirk, has been hired for the surveys, which will cost the county $12,360 annually, according to the resolution.
“It is a requirement from DEC to evaluate the magnetic migration of the spotted owl...harrier...bats...whatever,” Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said.
When asked how long the county would have to incur this cost, Deputy Administrator Warren Hart said, “The duration of our habitat permit. Forever.”
Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, questioned the expense.
“I can’t believe we pay $135 per hour for a bird watcher,” he said.
The cost has actually come down, Hart said.
“This group worked with DEC to reduce the cost and we modified our permit,” Hart said. “The cost started out double this.”
These types of environmental requirements are not unheard of, Groden said.
“Rene [VanSchaack] does all of this for the developments further up 9W on an annual basis,” he said.
The raptor surveys will not be tacked on to the jail’s budget, Groden said.
“I will not be charging this to the jail capital project,” he said, adding that it would come from the county budget’s general fund.
The jail project is funded by a $39 million bond from Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. at 2.49% interest and an $8.1 million contribution from the county.
Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, asked if the surveying could be done in-house rather than by a third party in the future.
As long as the individual has the proper qualifications, they can conduct the survey, Hart said.
In addition to the species found on the jail site, there are 91.5 square feet of permanent impacts to state wetlands and approximately 13,433 square feet of permanent impacts to state wetlands adjacent areas, according to DEC.
Another component of the county’s mitigation plan was to designate the approximately 30 acres undisturbed by the jail project as forever wild through a land management agreement, Groden said in an interview in April 2019.
The site was also determined to be historically significant during its State Historic Preservation Office review.
“SHPO reviewed the site and determined the project had potential to disturb Native American archaeological resources,” Deputy Public Information Officer Dan O’Keefe said. “Greene County accepted SHPO’s recommendations to avoid those areas of archaeological sensitivity in terms of construction siting and activity.”
The county had considered several alternative sites for a new jail, Groden said.
One possibility was an unfinished subdivision behind Save A Lot in Coxsackie.
“It was determined that it was the last developable piece of property that could come onto the village tax roll,” Groden said. “We did not want to take away that final frontier from the community.”
The county also considered building the jail near the 911 center or the mental health building in Cairo, Groden said, but the configuration was not right.
“We looked at the Coxsackie distribution center but we had the same issue as the Save A Lot site,” Groden said. “That could be a developable, taxpaying property in the future.”
By using the former state land, the county was not hurting any community’s tax base, Groden said.
“Plus the site is home to two state prisons,” he said, adding that residents would have less of a NIMBY reaction.
The jail project is running on schedule, Bruce Hauessler with The Pike Company reported Wednesday.
The 64-bed facility is expected to start accepting inmates in July 2021.
The steel and roofing on the administrative section of the jail is complete, and the concrete slab should be finished by next Thursday, Hauessler said.
“We are starting masonry tomorrow,” he said.
The waterline and gas lines are in, Hauessler said.
About 60 to 70 workers are on-site and effort is taken to source local workers, he said.
Concrete slab for the pods won’t be poured until the end of March because the pods are being delivered in April. The slab on the garage will be poured in the spring, Hauessler said.