Just when we thought the Greene County Legislature is saving some money on the new jail project, it turns out they will spend a little more, and continue spending, well, forever.

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 the DEC’s permit for the project, the county will be required to conduct winter raptor surveys, invasive species monitoring and vegetation analysis. Quenzer Environmental LLC, of Selkirk, has been hired to do the surveys, which will cost the county $12,360 each year.

Deputy Greene County Administrator Warren Hart said the surveys will last for the duration of the habitat permit.

The raptor surveys will not be tacked on to the jail’s $47.1 million budget, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said, but the fee for the surveys will be drawn from the county budget’s general fund.

In addition to the aviary 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. 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.

A construction project the size of the new jail was bound to create environmental issues, especially in a sensitive area. The Legislature has no choice but to follow the DEC’s requirement for annual surveys that will continue to infinity and it’s good that the environment will be protected for years to come.

Yet there is something else to be said: “Look to the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap,” goes one Biblical proverb. They also don’t have to calculate how much $12,360 a year forever will cost county taxpayers.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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