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Catskill, New York
Scott Myers

I attended all of Tuesday’s Coxsackie Jail Workshop at the Greene County Municipal Building. This is the first time we’ve seen the plans.

They designed a prison, not a jail. These plans include moving the entire sheriff’s office into the new facility, which REQUIRES a public vote. County Law § 217 requires a public referendum to move the Sheriff’s Office. If this was on a ballot it would no doubt fail.

There’s a locker room, ammo and gun room, an evidence room, two meeting rooms, and a gym for the staff. But there’s a YMCA just across the street. None of this stuff is for the detainees. It’s a clubhouse for jailers!

It is VERY expensive. 52 million, which is $89 million at 3.5% for 30 years. For perspective, the total county budget is $110 million a year.

The number of human cages (currently 96) and therefore the jail itself, was determined from data provided by Ricci Greene. When Windham Legislator Lori Torgersen (who has a Ph.D. in psychology and 20 years experience in criminal justice) began as chair for the Alternatives To Incarceration Committee she asked for Ricci Greene’s raw data. They didn’t have any. The only conclusion is they made up the numbers! In fact, we have half the number than they predicted (50 not 100). Once this became clear Ricci Greene was fired!

I could complain about the plan, but that’s a distraction. We must think about why we should build a jail at all. The real solution is at hand, share Columbia County’s jail. We’re doing that now.

The vote to request a bond is currently deadlocked 7 to 5, the 5 needs to change to 6 to achieve a supermajority. The HUGE expense soaks up social and other services by this county for 30 years. ALL the construction costs leave the county. There’s no crew here that can build this thing. We are already at the top of the 2% property tax cap. Groden’s 2018 budget shows no growth in property values and no plan for attracting non-public non-seasonal jobs or even tech.

It looks as if Jai Superintendent Michael Spitz will not remain superintendent. Today he let us know he won’t be employed much longer. He needed a waiver this week since his salary is twice what the law allows. The criteria are that no one else is available that’s qualified. But Mr. Spitz is the one who ran the the 80 Bridge Street facility into the ground, harming detainees as it occurred.

There was no discussion of the 27 COs who show up for work at a jail that was closed by engineers on April 20.

Efforts to shave costs for this Coxsackie Palace are undermined by the reality that the soil at the site is clay. Foundations require digging out 6’ of soil and layering gravel. Septic is not available because the soil has no drainage. It’s 7.5 million just to break ground since there are no utilities at this site.

More importantly, the $89 million only covers the human cages. Maintenance is NOT counted, which is a real cost. The roof, for instance, will need complete replacement before loan matures adding 6 million.

The 52 Million loan includes NO program, NO defense, NO alternatives to incarceration, NO transportation (Hudson is actually closer to the court than Coxsackie), and no staff salary or benefit costs.

THIS THING IS INSANE.

There are two more meetings scheduled, but the direction this is heading appears defective since it doesn’t solve the problems of the problematic local justice. It reinforces it.

Sharing a jail is already legal, and we’re proving it works since that’s what we’re doing now.

Let’s keep the Sheriff’s Office in Catskill (any move MUST be by public referendum), Upgrade it leaving an area for booking and a small number of temporary holding cells, secure the shared jail solution, create the bail fund (modeled off of Hudson’s), improve defense, and FUND ATI as a standing committee ($135,000). This actually solves the problem and doesn’t soak up all the money. Greene County is a very poor county, with no noticeable economic growth, no plan to create non-seasonal non-public jobs or tech. We’re already at the top of the 2% tax cap. Each dollar spent on human cages is OVER the 2% property tax cap.

Thank you.

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