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Home » » LEGISLATURE STUFF - There and Then Not There

LEGISLATURE STUFF - There and Then Not There

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 11/20/23 | 11/20/23

By Michael Ryan

CATSKILL - It does not sit well with some Greene County Legislature members that the cost of adding a wing onto the Greene County courthouse went up $3 million before bids were even accepted.

Lawmakers, at a Public Safety committee meeting, Monday night, intensely discussed whether or not to move forward with the construction of a new Justice Center on land where the former jail once stood.

The project has been in the planning and design stage for well over a year with four separate job bids ready to be put on the table.

No one was opposed to the creation of the building which would house the county’s District Attorney and Public Defender offices as well as a satellite of the NY State Office of Court Administration.

Talks have thus far been low key and lawmakers, earlier this year, okayed the issuance of $25 million in serial bonds to finance the project.

However, the amount suddenly rose $3 million when engineers determined the foundation work would require complex bolstering, needing to fit the structure into a steep incline on the back end.

Lawmakers quietly approved the movement of the $3 million from existing Fund Balance, rather than increasing borrowing, and it appeared the way was cleared to potentially break ground in the spring.

The county’s consultant, Thaler, Reilly, Wilson Architecture & Preservation and Freeman Project Management Services, reviewed 25 bids and recommended four low bidders.

Those bids were set to be offered, Monday night with county administrator Shaun Groden emphasizing the debt would fit into the county budget without taxpayer change, replacing a similar bond recently paid off.

Finance committee chairman Charles Martinez (District 2, Coxsackie) went through a list of other agenda items before coming to the Justice Center bids, but then announced the bids had instead been removed.

Lawmaker Thomas Hobart, chairman of the Public Safety committee, pulled the resolutions and led the opposition to moving forward.

“I have been thinking about the proposed item since our workshop,” which took place, last week, Hobart said.

“The idea that the ship has sailed on this has been mentally weighing on me quite a bit. I believe there are things that haven’t been brought forth.

“I want to see justification of the space we want utilized [for the District Attorney and Public Defender] and possibly leave the whole Court Administration out, not building this entire building.”

Blueprints currently call for a three-story structure including a ground-level parking lot to be shared by the county and the State.

Hobart noted that two courtrooms and judge’s chambers are contained in the plans, saying “we wouldn’t need one story without Court Administration,” trimming cost.

Focusing on the $3 million increase, Hobart said, “that is a lot of taxpayer money we are responsible for so I hope we can have additional conversations.

“I have talked to my constituents. I have gotten phone calls. I feel the right thing to do is pull this proposed action item,” Hobart said.

Majority Leader Matthew Luvera and lawmaker Michael Bulich (District 1, Catskill) joined in the appeal for more time to hammer out details.

Luvera and Bulich questioned the number of offices being added for county officials, wanting more specifics as to why that degree of expansion is necessary, doubling the existing numbers

“We went through the current staff, what they have and what they are lacking, and filled in a capacity for growth,” said deputy county administrator Warren Hart.

Luvera was not satisfied, saying, “I’m not against the building. I’m against all these extra offices. Before I can make a decision, I will want to speak with the District Attorney and the Public Defender.”

Legislature chairman Patrick Linger said Hobart’s yanking of the resolutions “came as a surprise” and that he was “not happy” they were pulled.

“I think that should be a full board vote. If he wanted to gather the “no” votes, that’s fine, but to pull it with no other plan to move forward is a copout,” Linger said.

New York State will be contributing a portion of the interest payments, close to one million dollars, and Linger pointed out, “the State has mandated increased staff that does not fit in our current buildings.

“That is why we did this [plan] in the first place. Yes, this puts us in bed with the State but we are already doing that,” Linger said.

It is not yet known what comes next. The bids are held for 45 days but the county is at least halfway through that cycle, potentially resulting in a redesign and rebid which could mean time and money.

“We can go back to the drawing board, but there is a cost to that,” Linger said, anticipating another workshop in the very near future.

“I don’t know where they’ve been the past two years, that they are raising these questions now,” Linger said, referring to Hobart, Luvera and Bulich.

“I have no idea what they are looking for at this point. We will find out.”

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