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Supers Prolong Jail Debate

Written By Michael on 6/30/15 | 6/30/15

By Timothy Knight

SCHOHARIE - Faced with a string of disgruntled residents on Friday morning, the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors balked on settling the jail location dispute, choosing instead to prolong the debate.

Six residents from the Town of Schoharie addressed the county board consecutively, calling for the supervisors to re-open the search process to find a new location for the recently approved relocated Public Safety Facility.

Commenting that there is no doubt you are driving into a historic village along Route 30, Schoharie resident Ruthanne Wilkenson told supervisors "First impressions are important," of which she expressed worries that having the jail at Seebold Farms would hurt that impression.

The designated primary site for the relocation of the county jail, the Seebold property (pictured bottom left) has come under fire for its position just before the entrance to the Village of Schoharie, leaving some residents to caution that it will tarnish tourist appeal to the valley beyond.

Offering that a jail is not "what we want to see in the gateway to the Schoharie Valley," resident Lynn Basselan further said that FEMA allows for the extension of a project's time line, currently set at 42 months, if there is justification, which she argued there is.
However, site documentation reveals that although the jail would be placed in the center of Seebold Farms, with a tree barrier on at least three sides, the secondary site at Zicha Road (pictured bottom right) would be located within yards of Route 7 and would be visible from I-88 to motorists.

Alleging that there was neither transparency nor community involvement, resident Jim Nass was pointed in his remarks, where he said, "The process for selecting the jail site was inherently flawed."

Nass would later question why the Seebold property, valued at approximately $175,000, was being purchased for almost $400,000 when the county has an abundance of vacant land.

Warning that there is at least some risk of jeopardizing the approved $37 million in funding from FEMA if an extension is sought on the agreed upon project time line of 42 months, Flood Recovery Coordinator Bill Cherry did comment "There's no guarantee that the reimbursement of prisoners will continue."

Typically not an approved reimbursement by FEMA, the federal agency made an exemption in Schoharie County's case after the county's appeal for a temporary jail to be constructed was denied. Covering 70% of prisoner housing costs, FEMA has saved the county millions of dollars since 2011.
With at least three and a half years until the new facility is built, Cherry estimated that there will be a additional $3.6 million in costs to house the county's prisoners in Albany County, $2.5 million of which is slated to be covered by FEMA.

Few on the county board were satisfied, however. Questioning what the search criteria was for selecting and scoring the potential jail properties, Wright Supervisor Amber Bleau requested that a special board meeting be held to review that information.

Middleburgh Supervisor Jim Buzon concurred, commenting that he "was not aware at that the time it (approving the primary jail site) would circumvent a public hearing."

Cobleskill Supervisor Leo McAllister, a supporter of the Seebold site, was open to holding the special meeting, but only so long as it was held immediately, so as to not jeopardize the hard work that went into securing the approved relocation.

Voting 10-4 in favor of holding the special meeting, supervisors met again on Monday night at 6:30 to further discuss the jail issue.
Supervisors Barbic of Seward, Bradt of Carlisle, Federice of Conesville, and Smith of Blenheim voted against the special meeting, with Mr. Smith arguing that it would only cost the county more money to continue delaying the project, which has recently approved by the Commission of Corrections.
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Anonymous said...

Build the new public safety building on the very same site. Construct the facility with parking at the ground level and a building consisting of several floors, with the first floor high enough as to never be affected by flood waters in the future. Stop procrastinating and wasting the taxpayers money if this has to be done just do it!

SJ said...

Easy for some to say!
Summit is quite a distance away to call the shots on tourism right here!
We are losing our tourism appeal every year and this puts "the icing on the cake."
There was no thought previously put into this decision.
Although not at the recent meeting I too am against it.
We call it a "jail".....but is it actually a prison?
The new firehouse gets 6.5 million for "architectural design"....well then the jail also would have to fit that description and of course it won't!
A row of trees is not going to hide the fended and "barbed wire."
People who own home next to this property should not have to lose the value of their homes!
My heart goes out to these people and I would hope that if they have to sell now that we do the right thing for them...after all the pricing at the "Jail" propert indicates that their property is valued so much more now!

We fought and continue to fight to keep pipelines off people's property...why then do we want to do anything like this to one or more of our own!
We are wasting time only in making the decision to keep it off of route 30! The decision to move it should and could have been made niw weeks ago!

Let's get this decision done and move it elsewhere!
Tourism and history is our business!

Anonymous said...

Hey SJ, My point was it doesn't have to be moved elsewhere. It could be built on the very same site the the flooded building sits on. Maybe you didn't understand the way I explained it. Parking on the ground level with the building consisting of several floors on top, it would be high enough so it could never be damaged by floods in the future. As for your comments, it is a jail and by no means was I calling the shots on tourism, the county already pays someone to do that You said move it elsewhere, I say where? there will always be opposition to any new site, that is why it should remain where it currently sits. Your right when you said there was no thought previously put into this decision, but that seems to happen with most important issues in this county.

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