CATSKILL — Village trustees signed off on the demolition of the former Greene County Jail complex and sheriff’s office Wednesday night.
Built in 1908, the old Greene County Jail and the sheriff’s office are listed on both state and national historic registries. Although it is owned by the county, the property is located in the village and the action required a balancing resolution.
“The county was asking for our OK to demolish the building the county owns already without going through more hoops,” Trustee Joseph Kozloski said Thursday.
Kozloski, trustees Natasha Law, Peter Grasse Jr. and Village President Vincent Seeley voted in favor of the resolution. Trustee Gregory Smith abstained. Smith could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Some residents criticized the board’s willingness to go along with the county’s wishes.
“The village doesn’t have to agree with the county,” Catskill author Hudson Talbott said. “The county wants them to sign so they can say look, even the village wants this to happen.”
Seeley said, “There’s nothing we can do about it,” according to Talbott.
“They were signing something they didn’t have to sign,” Talbott said. “It felt like bullying to me. It felt like the county was bullying the village.”
Seeley made similar remarks at the meeting, Talbott said.
“[Seeley] said it’s happening whether we sign off on it or not,” according to Talbott. “I get that he has to choose his battles and he doesn’t want to pick a fight with the county.”
The final decision on what to do with the buildings and the property rests with the county, the village president stressed Thursday.
“We approved a balancing resolution that removed the need for the county to go through additional bureaucracy in the process of them [demolishing] the current jail on Bridge Street,” Seeley said. “This action was a simple administrative action that avoided us from having to continue to drag out this process and conversation any longer. We need to remember that this property belongs to the county and thus they ultimately get to decide what to do with it.”
The county considered other options, Seeley said.
“The county held meetings, both public and one-on-one, to understand any concerns and hear proposed uses of the site,” Seeley said. “After vetting out the proposals and hearing the concerns, the legislators voted to commence with the demolition. In my opinion, we all need to move on from this jail topic as there are so many more productive uses of our time and energy in the village. Bottom line is that we have a new jail in Coxsackie and have no use or financial support to do anything with the old site.”
“It’s not our building,” she said. Who are we to tell them what to do with their property? That’s like me telling my neighbor they cannot knock down their old garage and build a new one. Many people have gone to the county with ideas for the usage of that property. Some ideas I think are great ideas. But none of those great ideas had any funds to turn their ideas into a reality.”
Grasse agreed with the board of trustees’ decision, he said.
“I don’t feel it’s in the best interest of our village board to throw a stick into the county project at this point,” he said. “If we as a board delayed the demolition I wouldn’t want to be a village taxpayer for any legal repercussions [we might incur].”
Grasse added that he was unsure if the county had already signed contracts for the demolition.
Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, said he expected the project to go out for bid in March.
The proposals Grasse heard for alternative uses for the site generally lacked resources to fund the projects.
During the meeting an amendment to the resolution was proposed by resident Robert Tomlinson asking the county to consider saving the sheriff’s office, if possible, due to its historic value.
Tomlinson had first asked the board not to approve the resolution, to which Seeley responded that it would be “opening up a whole can of worms,” according to Tomlinson.
“I do trust Vinny,” Tomlinson said. “Vinny knows what he’s talking about.”
Since the resolution was going to be passed, Tomlinson instead asked for the amendment in an attempt to save the sheriff’s office.
“The county can choose to ignore it or the county can consider it,” he said.
Talbott supports the idea of saving the sheriff’s office, he said.
“It’s part of Catskill’s historic heritage,” Talbott said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
“The sheriff’s office deserves some consideration, if not 100% protection,” he added.
Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou, who attended the meeting, noted the state Office of Court Administration is interested in developing additional office space on the property.
“All the more reason to work with the state to see if we can incorporate that one building,” Talbott said.
The county has explored a few options for using the parcel, including two parking lot designs with either 23 or 41 spots, estimated between $1.33 million and $1.9 million.
The engineering firm Barton & Loguidice estimated that to develop a new 5,000-square-foot office building on the parcel would cost between $1.13 million and $1.2 million.
Constructing a new office complex to meet the needs of the Office of Court Administration and possibly the Public Defender’s Office is an option, Linger said.
“[The public defender] is in need of space and it does make sense logistically,” he said. “I could potentially see it happening. It depends what kind of space is available.”
Seeley sees the site as having multiple uses in the future.
“I believe the most likely scenario of the site will be a reuse of the carriage house as a small museum, an expansion of the county court complex with parking underneath that will free up much needed parking on our main street,” Seeley said. “Office of Court Administration would likely be the only entity with the resources to do anything with that parcel. Whether you were for or against the jail, what is done is done and we need to shift our energy to bringing businesses and jobs to this area.”