Catskill, New York
Scott Myers

On April 20, 2018, Greene County’s Jail was closed by engineers. For years the State’s Commission of Corrections Chair Bielien demanded reform of the staff management. Next week Greene County Jail Superintendent Michael Spitz will likely be approved for a salary that’s more than twice what is the scheduled rate.

The Greene County Administration has largely failed. They failed to provide oversight to Sheriff Richard “Dick” Hussey, who was eventually removed when his DWI was prosecuted, not by Hunter’s Judge William Simon (who was forced to recuse when it was shown he donated to Hussey’s campaign) but by an out of county court.

Two weeks ago hundreds of lawn signs appeared like mushrooms after a good rain. They read: Save $50 Million. Share a jail. And this is true.

After our jail was forced to close (and after Bielien rated us the worst offender) we began sharing Columbia County’s jail. A county jail is only a temporary holding area until a court figures out what to do with the detainee.

28 Greene County Correction Officers go to Greene County Jail each day now and watch empty cells. It’s likely that no one should be in the building given what Kaaterskill Engineer’s reported about the decayed conditions. It is not safe. Sheriff Greg Seeley’s waiting for attrition or perhaps for relocation to local schools as armed guards. But, do we really need more guns in our schools?

The May 7th County Legislature “Safety” committee meeting was so well attended it was held in the large legislature room. 20 COs attended, probably wondering what the hell was going on. The answer is “nothing.” The legislature denied funding a study of the shared jail, $5,000. It already spent $2 million on defective plans for a new jail in Coxsackie. $2 million dollars. The plans are defective because the sheriff’s office can’t be moved without a public referendum, which they know will fail.

Efforts to ease the transition to a shared jail involve passage of Bonacic’s bill in the state senate. Their review, however, notices that a shared jail is already perfectly legal.

So, management by default. Let the engineers decide.

The alternative yard signs say: “Build A New Jail, Keep Jobs In Greene County.” Any examination of the math shows why this is a complete fallacy. First, jails do not create jobs. The detainee loses his or her job, their family loses the income, the person detained is likely never to regain full employment again.

The $52 million for a bond for a new jail is $87 million when interest of 3.15% for 30 years is included. This money simply leaves the county! The crews will NOT be from here. The $87 million simply leaves this largely indigent county – FOR 30 YEARS!

Why is Spitz still employed? He oversaw the abuses at our jail. Bielien’s reports site management more than architecture as problematic.

For that matter, why is County Administrator Shawn Groden still here? He’s irresponsibly spent $2 million on plans that can’t be used, steered the Legislative Chair Kevin Lewis to avoid spending $5,000 on a shared jail study. Is Mr. Groden getting kickbacks from Delaware Engineering? Really.

Groden’s 2018 budget shows NO GROWTH, NO PLANS FOR GROWTH, and he neglected to mention the jail project during his presentation. Anyone has to conclude that leaving 28 COs dangling is irresponsible. Anyone has to conclude that Sheriff Greg Seeley’s mismanaging if his only decision is to continue bringing 27 adults to work in an empty building.

The intelligent work of Legislature Lori Torgersen’s Alternative To Incarceration (“ATI”) Committee is largely ignored, for now. A nearly complete disconnect exists between their work and what Groden and Lewis do, or don’t do. ATI and more competent defense can easily bring our numbers down from 40 to 30 and even 20. Programs like social work, mental health work, substance abuse work are largely state and federally funded. Competent alternatives save families and taxpayers.

Some legislators “get it.” Last Monday’s May 14th finance committee basically buried the bond proposal. The US Agricultural Department would likely decline the loan since no due diligence exists (the $5,000 shared jail research).

Enough is enough. Using engineers to make decisions is decidedly weak. But that’s where we are. The engineers closed our jail. No one listened to COC’s Bielien or even the lawsuits of the girls sexually molested by former COs Dunn and Schermerhorn.

Fire Michael Spitz. This is obvious. Tear down the Greene County Jail, at least the new addition. Rehab the Sheriff’s Office. Share Columbia County’s Jail. Reassign or buy out or lay off the 27 current COs.

None of this is my “opinion.” It’s happening anyway.

The County Administration and the County Legislature are well advised to begin to implement actual non-public, non-seasonal growth and infrastructure projects to support them.

The intelligent task now is to fund ATI as a standing committee at $135,000 a year.

Want to “Keep Jobs in Greene County?” then DON’T BUILD A NEW JAIL. This “loan” simply sends our local taxpayer money out of the county – for 30 years!

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