CATSKILL — Greene County officials discussed the future of the former jail site, which is being eyed for parking and office space.
Built in 1908, the former Greene County Jail and sheriff’s office on Bridge Street in Catskill were listed on state and national historic registries. Both buildings were demolished in November and the property has about a quarter of an acre available for development. The plans are conceptual in nature and no formal decisions were made.
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden presented lawmakers with a rendering of a two-story building, designed to house secure parking for the Office of Court Administration on the lower level and office space for the Public Defender’s Office on the second story. A pedestrian bridge would connect the second story of the building to the courthouse.
“I think it looks really, really nice,” Legislator Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, said. “It fits in perfectly.”
The county paid $70,253 to salvage about 3,500 square feet of the Ohio sandstone facade from the old buildings and is looking to reuse the materials, developing a new building with a similar historic character.
“We went to great length to mirror the court building as much as possible,” Groden said. “In theory, if you drove by on Bridge Street, you would think the buildings were built at the same time.”
Greene County Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, voiced his support for the idea.
“I think it quells the rumors of leaving it as a parking lot and doing nothing,” he said. “It shows that we have some foresight into the future.”
“I think it shows we didn’t exactly ignore the historicalness, but the building was just too old to be properly renovated to a 21st century use,” Groden said. “Could you have done it? Yeah, you could have done it, but it would have been exorbitantly expensive.”
Meg Nowack of Historic Catskill was disappointed to see the historic buildings go, but thought the county could make use of the sandstone.
“The salvaged stone could still be used,” she said. “The county did a beautiful job of a modern addition as seen in the new public entrance for the courthouse. Good modern architecture tends to work in concert with historic architecture far better than an attempt at duplication.”
The new space would be ideal for the Public Defender’s Office, Groden said, adding that the staff has doubled or possibly tripled within the last year.
The department is housed in a 1,600-square-foot space in the county office building.
“They’re jammed in there like sardines,” he said.
The proposed building would be 14,000 square feet and have 23 parking spaces for court personnel.
The alley between the new building and the courthouse would be maintained so inmates could be brought to court using a rear entrance, Groden said.
Additional office space could be used by the Office of Court Administration, Groden said.
“We do not have a defined request from them nor do we have an evaluation of what they would need or what they would financially contribute to a project like this,” he said.
Grant funding that the Public Defender’s Office received could potentially be put toward the new space, Groden said.
Groden did not release cost estimates for the building but noted the timing was financially favorable.
“We have, in the year 2022, the retirement of two pieces of existing debt,” Groden said. “Approximately $2 million a year would be retired. When we formulate the budget in fiscal year 2023, we have the flexibility to reissue the debt and reconstitute these building pads and not increase the budget, not have a tax increase.”
If the cost of the project does not exceed $20 million and the county replaces the retiring debt with new debt of equal value, there would be no budget increase, Groden said.
“We are in a very unique position to address physical needs without having to scratch your head about tax effects,” he said.
Luvera asked about the possibility of having two stories of office space, adding that he felt parking was adequate.
“We have parking already designated as our parking, the Candyman (store) parking lot is already designated as parking,” he said. “It seems like we have a lot of parking.”
“Not on trial days,” Groden said.
If court personnel used this parking instead of the lot across the street from the courthouse, it would free up those spaces for businesses, Groden said.
“There are not a lot of businesses down at that end of Main Street,” Luvera said.