Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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February 12th, 2010

Jail saga not ending any time soon

Those who thought New York State Corrections Chairman Thomas Beilein’s visit to Sullivan County would bring sympathy and compassion were dead wrong.

Beilein instead ordered the immediate closing of a floor which houses sex offenders, and will possibly order the closure of another floor due to unsafe conditions.

Despite the fact that Sullivan County has no money, a new jail must still be built. The Band-Aid approach is sinking us further into debt. No one wants to hear this, but sadly a onetime 10 percent tax hike might be needed to construct the jail.
County Manager David Fanslau setting the record straight told me if it is mandated, it would be used to cover debt service of $4.5 million on a 30 year general obligation bond.  He said it would potentially decrease over time as the total taxable assessed values of the County rise.

Fanslau said other alternatives that can reduce costs include private financing. “For example, a private company could finance and construct the facility, thereafter, lease it to the County, and the County would own the facility after a forty (40) or fifty (50) year period.”

He also said the proposal to outboard inmates will continue to be studied, but “should be considered only if it is more fiscally prudent than building a jail sized to meet Sullivan County’s needs.”

Fanslau said, “All of the options will be and should be fully comprehensively researched and publicly presented to the County Legislature, prior to any action on the forward progress of the jail project.”

Legislator Jodi Goodman knowing the scenario all too well knows we need an infusion of immediate cash, and she feels it could come from the impact fees from Indian Casinos.

Goodman exclaimed, “I asked Mr. Beilein to see the governor and push gaming in – then we could afford a jail!”

She added, “Some say we should or could use Orange County, but when I looked into that there have been times when they ask us to pick up our inmates because they need the space, or they are filled up. To have us “reserve a room ‘ permanently available to us would be cost crazy. The commissioner explained that it would be like reserving a hotel in peak season. We need Gaming!!!!!”

Leni Binder said she would like to see state law changed to permit the county to send anyone incarcerated for more than six months to state prison. “Let’s look into it, because then we would have room with renovation for the short term. We have no choice but to update since even if we break ground tomorrow, it is still a two to three year process.”

Tom Manza, a leading opponent of a new jail, called Beilein’s visit “disgraceful.”

Manza told me, “I thought Beilein shut that small part of the jail down as a political move. Those pipes have been showing for many years and the whole jail passed inspection last year.  As for us not being able to speak I believe they should have had to take the American flag down. I thought the Legislators asked him some good questions, but he sidestepped most of the answers. The one thing I got was that they’re not forcing us to build, but he is putting pressure on us. The whole thing is why I want to fight it. I feel that the public is not getting a fair shake.”

Manza says he will be calling for a new meeting that will allow people to speak as opposed to written questions.

Although Beilein went as far to call our jail a “dungeon,” he must also understand our financial predicament, and work with us. If anything, he should be urging Governor David Paterson to assist us in our time of need.

Perhaps Jodi Goodman has the only real viable solution, approve Indian Gaming so we can utilize the millions in impact fees to build a new jail.

Perhaps, in the meantime, the Visitor’s Association can market Beilein’s branded “dungeon” as an historical landmark, and we could profit from tour admissions.
This is a sad situation that this is not going away anytime soon, and our legislators and county manager has a real dilemma on their hands.

1 comment to Jail saga not ending any time soon

  • Tom Manza

    Hi Bill,
    I thoughy the column was well rounded and fair. The only thing that bugs me is
    that everyone including the media takes Fanslaus’ figures as fact. That one time charge is misleading as it suggests that the tax is for one year only. The tax increase is for 30 years.
    The other thing is that Ron Hiatt can tell you as he was on the inside , the tax increase will almost certainly be 17 % . Thats what they were figuring and he reported it as Vice Chair. The supposed savings since are unsubstantiated. Yesterday at the Executive meeting I did a presentation showing that David Fanslaus’ ( Board out vs. build new) numbers report he did for the Beilein meeting were way off . About $9,000,000 a year off in fact.
    He used numbers I warned him about that inflated board out costs instead of what we actually paid this past year. I gave out the papers and he denied that we only pay $85 a day including transport ,but I have copies of all the bills .Not saying we should do it , but that we are entitled to accurate public information from the County Managers Office.
    I also had a newspaper article from 20 years ago to show that Beilein didn,t know the facts when he said conditions haven,t changed . Back then we had two escapes, 3 dead prisoners ,including two from neglect , a riot , filthy conditions and unsupervised floors. Yet the State never shut down part of the jail and gave us 30 days to comply. They are doing the same in Erie Cty. by Buffalo where conditions were much worse than our jail and giving them time to correct things. Obviously the jail needs a lot of update ,but the protocol is usually to cite the Cty. for violations and then sue if they,re not met. Thats why I feel it was political . The very age of the jail getting 50 -70 yrs , younger is a joke. That was kept from the public a long time . The issue goes on and on ,but the misinformation doesn,t. Anyway hopefully they,ll do the right thing and I was assured yesterday that the public will get another nighttime meeting in which we can speak in the future and that every option is being explored. As for Fanslau ,I think he needs to adjust his thinking a bit. He seems to want to build this thing too badly. I trust the Legislators will do the right thing ,but they need accurate figures to do that . Will meet you one day. Nice Job !Take care,
    Tom Manza