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December 12, 2008 - 1:44pm

Prospects Of Genesee-Orleans Regional Jail?

Here in Orleans County, we have quite a dilemma on our hands. Last year, the Orleans County Legislature notified the public that we needed a new jail. The jail we have now is crowded and needs to expand. But due to our jail being landlocked (right now, the jail sits in downtown Albion next our courthouse, meaning there is no room for expansion) and the jail having serious wear and tear, we are in the market for a new jail.

The county has formed a Jail Advisory Committee to address issues surrounding the construction of a new jail. However, the Orleans County Legislature decided a few months ago to pursue a study (which, according to news reports, the Genesee County Legislature agreed to) that would look into a regional jail shared between the two counties.

For some in Orleans County, this looks to be a great deal. The cost to build a jail in Orleans County has been projected to be between $20 million to $30 million, although the Legislature has not always been united on the cost. So sharing that burden with Genesee County might not be such a bad thing on the surface.

But I worry about this for a few reasons:

(1) Our jail was officially opened in the early 1970's. The Genesee County Jail, according to its website, was built in 1985. That tells me the two counties are at different points. Again, I'm not sure how necessary it is for Genesee County to build a new jail or join in with Orleans County on plans for a regional jail. That is why I'm writing this to get feedback from the citizens (and hopefully members of county government) in Genesee County.

(2) Would Genesee County be in the financial position to pick up its end of the deal? The reason I ask is because Orleans County would be in a tough bind with the jail project, whether it is a shared sacrifice or not. Such a project would raise taxes (without question) and it would prove to be a long-term burden to pay off. One can assume that if it would cost Orleans County to build a larger facility (projected at one time to be a 120-bed facility), then a regional jail will cost at least slightly more.

(3) Is it worth conducting this study to see if a regional jail would be viable? At last check, the study itself would cost $40,000. That's a big gamble to take if the study comes back and says that such a venture would not be viable.

As a resident of Orleans County, I feel its safe to say that myself and several other citizens are worried about the jail project. If this regional jail doesn't come to fruition, we will need to build a facility sooner rather than later. That burden will fall on us and it will be a tremendous burden to take on.

However, I'm turning to the people of Genesee County and I hope some of the leaders in Genesee County (I'm looking at you Jay Grasso) are reading this. Are you in the market for a new jail or a regional jail? Are you in the financial position to make such an investment? And is this something Genesee County would want?

Jerome Grasso
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Robert: good post. Probably more to this issue than what could be posted here, so I will hit on a few points. Regarding our jail, the "new section" was opened in 1985. This area consists mainly of dorms that house multiple inmates. The old section was built around the turn of the last century and contains mostly cells. While it has ben updated over the years, it is lacking in many ways. The jails biggest detractor is that it is not capable of housing female inmates. In fact, up until recently, we housed our female prisoners in your jail by contract. Your jail is no longer allowed to house these inmates. We send them elsewhere We are not quite under the gun (so to speak) from the state as Orleans, but the day is coming when we will have to update or build a new facility. We plan to be ahead of the curve. Neither county can afford a new jail, but the state is forcing ALL counties to eventually build. A regional study done in the early 70's shows many county jail problems then, still exist today. An updated study is necessary. We need to look at the concept of regional jails as a way to save the taxpayer money. Many questions exist. Would this facility be for sentenced or unsentenced prisoners? Transportation issues abound. Oh, how about this little detail, we would need special legislation from the state to allow a regional jail to be legal. The Orleans and Genesee County leg. have a good working relationship and we will continue to look for ways to be innovative for the benefit of the taxpayer.
Robert Harding
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Jay, This part of your response is worth noting: "Oh, how about this little detail, we would need special legislation from the state to allow a regional jail to be legal." Right now, state law says, essentially, that every county must have a jail. I think the first thing that should be looked into is the possibility of getting some sort of exemption or a change in the law that would allow for a regional facility to be constructed. Because we can do all the studies we want and if that law doesn't change and the state lawmakers aren't willing to change it, then we will have to go back to the original plan of Orleans County building a new jail. It is interesting to hear the story about the Genesee County Jail because while you do have problems, I think that is expected of a facility (or part of a facility) that was built 100 years ago. Our facility isn't even 40 years old. So it says a lot about Genesee County that they were able to keep that portion of their facility going for 100 years. Building a jail isn't cheap, so anything you can do to maintain your current facility is crucial. Here are a few thoughts on regional jails though. Let's say that the state somehow allows for Genesee and Orleans to build a regional jail. I'm assuming that both counties would have a share in the building of such a facility and would have a share in the operation of the facility once its constructed. Would that cost be cheaper than each county building their own facilities? Meaning, would each county's share of the jail's construction costs be less than if each county built their own facility? Then you have to ask yourself if the costs to operate the jail (again, shared by both counties) would be equal to or less the current costs to run a jail. On the surface, a regional jail sounds like a great idea. But if there are no savings to the taxpayer, I would have to question whether or not a regional jail is a good idea.
Jerome Grasso
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Robert: The devil is indeed in the details. Potential cost savings: a new jail for each county would cost about $25 to $30 million per county. None of the cost is reimbursed by the state. One line of thought is that a single, larger facility (to accomodate both counties)would be in the $40 million dollar range. This is a potential savings of about $10 to $20 million. These rough estimates come from engineers I have spoken with. Another cost savings would be the elimination of at least one jail supervisor. Problems: assuming the jail location were somewhere on the county line, travel costs for the transport of inmates would rise. This could be turned into a positive by turning the area where the facility would be built into an economic driver. Water and sewer would be necessary and could have the potential to bring business to the mostly rural areas along the county boundries. You are correct, an exemption or new state legislation would be necessary. Not always easy to get.
Mark Potwora
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Why are we talking new jail..Does Genesse county need one..arent we in enought debt with the new sheriff dept..We cant even bring business in now..Economic driver give me a break.Genesse County has one of the highest tax rate in the state..Is the jail over crowded..What is the problem..I got an idea,have the county legislators take a year off and not meet.Maybe they will spend less..We wouldn't have to pay them for coming up with ways to spend money on Economic drivers.
Russ Stresing
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Mark, By coincidence, I was looking for a comparison of municipal tax rates in New York State. From your comment, it looks like you found it. Please supply the link where you found that Genesee County has one of the highest tax rates in the state. Thanks in advance.
Jerome Grasso
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Slow down there boys. We would only build one if the state makes us. Same for Orleans. Counties are mandated by the state to have jails. As for municipal tax rates, compare apples to apples. Genesee county shares its sales tax with the city, towns, and villages. That makes the county tax rate higher while lowering those other municipal rates. Genesee county would have an extremely low tax rate if we did not share. Mark: if you only new the work we put into the budget. Your time off comment is absurd. If you want to see what the legislature does, you are welcome to come to the all the committee meetings. I have not seen you there.
Russ Stresing
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Jerry, "Slow down, there boys"? There you go again, with your blanket insinuations that everyone else but you is flying off the handle. Its a tired, transparent gimmick.
Kelly Hansen
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Taxes paid by Genesee County residents are not the highest in the state - not by a long shot. When I received our most recent assessment in the mail and it showed an 18% increase in value over a span of five years, my head nearly popped off. Then I checked out other counties - if I owned the same house in their location - and decided I love living right where I am. Example for 2007: Batavia City School District total taxes (county, town, village, city, school) on a house assessed for 100k: $3,499.00 Elba School District: $4,248.00 Alexander: $3,785.00 LeRoy Village: $4,655.00 Oakfield: $4,220.00 Let's look to Monroe county - Brighton: $3,623.00 East Rochester: $4,809.00 Brockport Village: $4,694.00 Macedon: $4,416.00 Palmyra: $5,073.00 Wolcott: $4,060.00 Wyoming County - Attica: $3,792.00 Perry Village: $4,276.00 Warsaw Village: $4,400.00 Allegany County - Alfred Village: $5,729.00 Angelica: $5,024.00 Belfast: $4,486.00 Cuba Village: $5,281.00 Wellsville Village: $6,100.00 Various Upstate NY Locations: Cortland City: $4,567.00 Syracuse: $3,594.00 Seneca Falls: $4,789.00 Corning: $4,297.00 Hornell: $4,095.00 Ithaca: $3,476.00 Ogdensburg: $4,738.00 Schenectady: $4,887.00 Owego Village: $4,797.00 _______________ The grass is always greener somewhere else, isn't it? Smileys Unless you want to live in Lake George or some other location teeming with tourists six months out of the year, perhaps the taxes in Genesee aren't so bad after all. 2007 Tax Rates Throughout NY State
Daniel Jones
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Those are school tax rates, I think whats being discussed are county property tax and sales tax rates. I do know that Genesee County has an 8 percent sales tax rate. http://ny.rand.org/stats/govtfin/salestax.html
Daniel Jones
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Here's a list of each County's tax rate by municipality. http://www.orps.state.ny.us/cfapps/MuniPro/osc/oscCountytaxlevy.cfm?c=18... Other information, such as each municipalities tax rate can be found here. http://www.orps.state.ny.us/cfapps/MuniPro/osc/oscMunitaxlevy.cfm?c=18&f...
Kelly Hansen
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Hi Daniel: Those are not school tax rates - they are county, town, city, village, school tax dollars for a home assessed for 100k separated and added together. I hope you followed the link I provided. I find the big picture more helpful, though I understand some people do not. :)
Daniel Jones
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I gotcha, the links that I gave were just for the county tax.
Russ Stresing
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Thanks, Kelly. The tax rate for City is even more impressive given the higher level of service provided to residents. It adds even greater value to the benefits of living in Batavia.
Mark Potwora
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Kelly i was talking county tax rates..Monroe county 7.16 per thousand..Wyoming is 6.62 per thousand,Erie is 5.17 per thousand.My statement was our county taxes are one of the highest per thousand..What my basic statement was that we do not need to build a new jail so that we could raise taxes even more..
Jerome Grasso
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Russ: Jerry is my dad, I am Jay. I was making a light comment, you read to much into it. Mark: nobody wants to build a new jail. Unfortunately, the state will eventually force us to build one. It is an unfunded mandate that is put upon counties by the state. We will work to put this off as long as possible. The county does not want to be unprepared when that day comes. Mark, the county has not raised your taxes. The 2009 rate is the same as last year. In fact, the county tax rate went down the two previous years.
Mark Potwora
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Jay i never said the county raised my taxes this year but in years past they have or it wouldn't be what it is..It needs to be lower..We in the city of Batavia allready pay for police protection,fire protection, and we have our own DPW..I shouldn't have to pay twice..The Sheriffs dont patrol my street,the county doesn't plow my street.So why do we in Batavia have to pay the same county tax rate as those who live outside the city and use those county services...

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