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 6th, 2014

Beware of Jail Proposals

The Sullivan County Legislature is reviewing new proposals to build a new jail, and while the plans being submitted by Goldberg Group Architects is much cheaper from what was submitted by LaBella Associates the legislature must precede with caution.

The designs being submitted by Goldberg are much different from what LaBella had proposed and while it may appear that Goldberg’s plan is cheaper and will save taxpayers millions, one will have to wonder if we are really getting a bargain if they are selected.

LaBella Associates has a solid reputable reputation in New York State in building correctional facilities, Goldberg has reportedly never built in New York State, even though it does have a credible reputation.

What should be a concern with Goldberg’s two proposals are potential hidden costs, and if such a smaller scale project than that of LaBella’s will in the long run be a mistake especially with the anticipated population growth coming from resort destinations.

Goldberg claims it can build for under $45 million – while LaBella’s original proposal was for around $78 million. Goldberg’s plan calls for steel cell construction with a withered imprint compared to LaBella’s concrete plan. LaBellais is also expected to propose to legislators with a scaled down much cheaper version of a County jail.

Constructing a new jail has been a hot bed issue for years.

Legislature after legislature continually stonewalled the issue of the jail with one excuse after another and it must stop. If the jail were constructed years ago when it should have been – taxpayers would have saved millions. Pretending to cut costs with a small unworkable facility might in the long run have a damaging impact on taxpayers, and it is the obligation of our legislators to recognize that.

There is nothing wrong with hearing proposals as long as it is not a stonewalling attempt upon certain legislators to delay the process of a New York State Mandate.

The simple truth is that the legislature still would have been looking the other way if it weren’t for a scathing report on our current jail by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapolli.

Besides being one of the unhealthiest and poorest counties in New York State, we also house the oldest jail. According to DiNapoli’s Office we are on “borrowed time” and at anytime we could have “to close the jail” because of the deplorable conditions.

Even though Sullivan County has purchased property to house a new facility and has spent millions on studies and other costs, there has been very little movement. The Comptroller’s Office like many of us wants that changed.

The current jail does not meet any of New York State’s minimum standards. It is filled with decaying walls, old pipes, and is a hazard to all employees and inmates.

The justification from County government has continually been that they do not have the funds to construct a new jail. The simple truth is that the longer the County waits the more expensive it will cost to build a new jail, and I do not care what people like Goldberg claim. You pay for what you get.

We are currently transporting many inmates to other facilities costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If a new facility were built – we could potentially be making a profit by constructing specialized units that could be used for out of county inmates.

The new jail is supposed to be located on 40 acres near exit 104 off the future I-86.

We can expect public meetings and hearings within the next few weeks on plans and designs and costs – leading one to wonder if a new jail be built anytime soon.

Legislators must take the advice of Sheriff Michael Schiff and Jail Administrator Hal Smith – but who knows what they will do.

When Schiff and Legislator Alan Sorensen suggested that his colleagues move the Sheriff’s Departments Patrol Division to the former BOCES building near the Apollo Plaza in Monticello, they instead laughed and sold the property.

Hopefully our legislators will do the right thing, and realize there is no cheap way out. We can no longer accept band-aids to solve our problems. Do it the right way once and for all.

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on 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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