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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October 27th, 2016

New Sullivan County Jail Finally Approved

The Sullivan County Legislature must be praised for finally doing something every other legislative body stonewalled for over a decade – They approved a contract to construct a new jail and Sheriff’s Office.

The new jail which will be located on 40 acres near exit 104 off the future I-86 will be constructed by The Pike Company of Rochester after winning the lowest bid at $72,240,000.

The legislature also approved an additional $829,000 for architect LaBella Associates for the new Sheriff’s Office.

Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez along with legislators Joe Perrello who heads the Public Works Committee and Terri Ward chair of Public Safety made the approval of a new jail and Sheriff’s Office a top priority and they must be congratulated for their continual persistence and determination that legislators approve the new facility once and for all.

Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Schiff and Hal Smith the Administrator at the Jail must also be congratulated for never giving up.

Schiff and Smith steadfastly lobbied our legislative bodies for years pleading and imploring them to put an end to the unsafe and dangerous conditions at the current jail. They literally begged them to put politics aside and to live up to the New York State mandate to construct a new Sullivan County Jail.

They often found themselves caught in one political battle after another. Legislators found every excuse to delay and research the project while construction costs kept going up by the millions.

If former legislators had the balls to do their job – Sullivan County taxpayers would have saved millions in construction costs – but instead they chose to let the situation escalate.

Because of their inability to act in the interests of the taxpayers of Sullivan County we will now have to pay close to a 5 percent property tax increase to cover the costs of constructing the new jail and Sheriff’s Office.

Sullivan County Manager Joshua Potosek last week said, “The 2017 Tentative Budget fully funds the construction and eventual operation of a new county jail and Sheriff’s administration building.  What was years ago, feared to cost over $100 million dollars and a resulting tax increase in the double digits, now will require a 4.77% tax increase.”

Discussing last week’s legislative vote, Sullivan County Chairman Luis Alvarez said, “I knew first hand as a former member of our law enforcement community that I had an obligation as a legislator to make certain that the deplorable, unhealthy, hazardous, and dangerous conditions that employees and inmates had to endure daily came to an end. I also knew that we had to live up to the New York State mandate to shut the current facility and construct a new one.”

Alvarez added, “No one wants to pay a tax increase, but sometimes these are the difficult decisions we have to make as legislators. The jail issue should have been resolved years ago, but it wasn’t.”

“We have many problems in Sullivan County including being one of the poorest and unhealthiest in New York State, and my obligation to the residents of Sullivan County is to make productive change, and dealing with the jail is part of that,” Alvarez concluded.

Legislator Joe Perrello who heads the Public Works Committee said, “I ran for the legislature to stop the same business as usual. I ran to get things done and to fix our problems. Our former legislative bodies were negligent by not living up to their fiduciary responsibilities by acting on the jail. They kept looking the other way while knowing all along that if they didn’t act costs would keep going up by the millions. By being complacent they are now costing us this property tax increase.”

“As a legislator I am obligated to make hard and serious decisions, and I knew as chair of the Public Works Committee one of them was to solve the jail situation, and that is what I did.”

Perrello added, “The taxpayers of Sullivan County have had enough. They want elected officials who will work for them and find solutions to our many problems and that is what I have and will continue to do.”

Legislator Terri Ward who heads the Public Safety Committee said, “The construction of the new jail and sheriff patrol building is far too long overdue. For the health and safety of our employees as well as persons awaiting sentencing, there is simply no other option that will be as cost effective in the long term as well as be able to provide an expansion of the programs we minimally offer now to help transition inmates into productive members of society.”

Ward added, “I’m in the research stage of putting a small farm at the site as well as the possibility of teaming up with a shelter to allow inmates to help care for the animals and learn how to train them to become service dogs. None of which is currently possible at the old site due to lack of space as well as safety and storage concerns.”

Critics of the new jail must be reminded that it took a report from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s Office back in 2012 to bring the issue of a new jail back into the spotlight.

DiNapoli in his report warned that we were on “borrowed time” from the jail being ordered closed because of the deplorable conditions there.

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

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

Critics also argued in favor of an idea that was floated since the Spitzer administration that we use the shuttered Woodbourne Annex for the new Jail. That concept was flawed from the start.

It would have been ludicrous to move our jail moved to Woodbourne. Not only is it outdated, and costly to renovate, but the location is too far from courthouses and the highway. The command center for the Sheriff’s Office must be easily accessible to all of Sullivan County.

Although none of us wants to pay a tax increase – our legislators did their job by approving the new jail and Sheriff’s Office. We can no longer accept band-aids and excuses to solve our problems. 

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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