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Genesee County Jail

April 29, 2021 - 9:22am

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The Genesee County Legislature on Wednesday issued a proclamation designating May 2-8 as National Correctional Officers' Week.

Taking part in the presentation at the Old County Courthouse were, from left, County Jail Superintendent William Zipfel; Legislator Marianne Clattenburg; Jail Corrections' officers Marissa Jacques, Michael Cox and John Garlock; Undersheriff Bradley Mazur, and Sheriff William Sheron.

The proclamation read, in part, that the legislature "wishes to acknowledge the difficult job we ask these correction officers to perform, locked within a facility for a large part of their day where they must securely, safely and humanely keep those committed to the jail, respecting the rights and dignity of all inmates ..."

Sheron commended the work of the jail staff, stating, "they went through hell this past year (in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic) and came through with flying colors."

Photo by Mike Pettinella.

January 28, 2021 - 8:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news, batavia.

Press release:

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. reports that an inmate has died after attempting suicide at the Genesee County Jail on Jan. 4.

A Genesee County Correction officer found the 28-year-old inmate hanging from a shower curtain rod at approximately 12:27 p.m., Jan. 4, while making routine rounds. The Correction officer immediately summoned assistance and began performing life-saving measures. The inmate was transported by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo where he passed away on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The inmate is identified as Kyle Adam Scheuerlein, of Batavia, NY. He had been incarcerated on bail in the Genesee County Jail since Jan. 1, following his arrest by the City of Batavia Police Department on the charges of second-degree burglary and criminal contempt - disobeying a court order in the second degree.

An investigation into this incident is being conducted by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the NYS Commission of Corrections.

November 4, 2020 - 9:14pm

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Supported by an audience of department heads and legislators, first-year Genesee County Matt Landers tonight formally presented the municipality’s 2021 proposed budget, a $142,953,227 all funds spending plan drafted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It increases the tax levy by $400,069 but lowers the property tax rate by 31 cents per thousand of assessed value.

No one from the public signed up to speak at the budget hearing at the Old County Courthouse.

That left it to Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein to credit management and departmental leaders for being able to “flex and pivot” to develop a budget that doesn’t override the New York State tax cap, and to Landers to summarize – or “Landerize” as he put it – the path that got the county to this point and set a course heading into 2021.

“It certainly was a challenge to put together a 140-plus million dollar budget in a pandemic, but here we are today able to present a balanced budget that is under the tax cap,” he said.

Aided by PowerPoint slides, Landers presented the following key dollar amounts and percentages for 2021:

  • Recommended All Funds Budget is $142,953,227; a decrease of $759,766 or .53 percent;
  • Recommended General Fund Budget is $110,241,924, a decrease of $3,767,378 or 3.30 percent;
  • Recommended Property Tax Levy is $31,451,727, an increase of $400,069 or 1.28 percent;
  • Tax Rate Decrease from $10.11 to $9.80, approximately 3.06 percent;
  • Recommended Fund Balance Usage of $2,334,857, an increase of $534,822 from 2020 adopted budget.

Although the tax levy is going up, the tax rate is going down due to an increase in the county’s assessment.

To illustrate the property tax impact, Landers showed a slide depicting the median residential household in Genesee County with an assessed value of $106,800. It revealed that the 31-cent tax rate decrease amounts to a decrease of $33.11 in property taxes, assuming no assessment increase.

Barring any last minute adjustments by the legislature, the budget as it currently sits is scheduled to be adopted on Nov. 23.

Landers outlined several parameters that needed to be followed before his team, that included Assistant County Manager Tammi Ferringer and Executive Assistant Vicky Muckle, could dive into the numbers. Those instructions were to keep county support to the various departments “flat,” hold the line on contributions to outside agencies and funding of Genesee Community College, taking a team approach and, per the legislature’s wishes, not overriding the tax cap.

“It was a consensus that we would not be cutting them (outside agencies) but we would be at flat funding, which in itself is asking a lot of some of these agencies that are feeling the same budgetary constraints and costs and COVID-related items that we are,” Landers said. “So, I was pleased that they would accept flat funding, and most were appreciative that we did not cut them.”

He said it was a difficult decision to not increase funding to GCC, which he called “an excellent economic engine” in the county.

Landers also mentioned other factors, some triggered by COVID-19, that carried much weight in the formation of the budget, notably word out of Albany of a 20-percent reduction in state aid for most programs, double-digit increases in health care and retirement costs, $23 million in yearly state mandated services provided by the county – “with no end in sight,” he said – plus a 10- to 15-percent loss in sales tax revenue and decrease in projected interest earnings.

In response to these challenges, Landers pointed out he used more of the unexpended fund balance that he was anticipating and hopes that the county will be able to replenish it over time. He gave credit to former County Manager Jay Gsell for implementing a strategic hiring freeze, furloughing employees and deferring capital projects as the pandemic took hold.

The county also made the decision to reduce its revenue sharing with towns and villages, with Landers stating that the previous agreement was “unsustainable” in this current economy.

On the bright side, Landers said this allowed the county to increase its budget for infrastructure by $1 million next year -- $900,000 for bridges and culverts and $100,000 for roads -- a benefit that will “lessen the blow” to towns and villages because "that money will be going into their communities."

He said the budget also calls for the creation of three full-time positions (a dispatcher and two human resources employees) and a part-time person to assist the veterans service coordinator.

Looking forward, Landers said the focus will be on six areas:

  • Sales Tax Revenues;
  • Status of a Federal Stimulus Package;
  • Status of State Aid Reductions;
  • Status of COVID-19 and a Hopeful Vaccine;
  • Effects of Bail Reform on Jail Population;
  • State Allowing Possible Joint Jail with Orleans County.

“The (new) Genesee County Jail, pre-COVID, was the biggest story going on – right up there with water (the county’s water project),” he said. “It will be getting started shortly … as a consolidation effort with Orleans County.”

At the present time, state law prohibits joint county jails, but Landers said he his hopeful that the governor could change his position in his 2021-22 budget.

Landers acknowledged that legislators could make some “tweaks” to the budget before stating “that it is in the legislature’s hands now.”

Stein closed the session by saying the legislature is determined to fund the operations of this county, adding that the manager’s and budget office “door is open” for people to express their feelings.

“We are here to serve with you and for you,” she said.

Photo: Genesee County Manager Matt Landers at tonight's budget public hearing at the Old County Courthouse. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

June 16, 2020 - 4:08pm

A partnership with Orleans County may be the key that unlocks the door leading to the construction of a new $60 million Genesee County Jail to be located just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“Here’s an opportunity for an efficient, 21st century, state-of-the-art jail that is ready to go. We have the designs … we have willing partners to the north and in Genesee County, so we hope that it is something he (Gov. Andrew Cuomo) is willing to get behind.”

Those were the words of Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, reporting on the progress – or lack thereof due to the coronavirus – of the proposed 184-bed jail during a Genesee County Legislature “Committee of the Whole” meeting Monday via Zoom videoconferencing.

Landers said he is hopeful that state laws prohibiting a shared jail could be alleviated and that Cuomo would see the benefit of such an arrangement – one that lines up with the governor’s call to reinvent the way local government operates.

“(Cuomo) had in his budget some easing of the laws, restrictions that made it difficult to have any kind of coordination with jails in the state, but that didn’t make it to the final budget,” Landers explained. “Seeing that there are talks of a potential (federal) stimulus 4 package out there that may have a large infrastructure component to it, this could be something that could be attractive.

“It meets a lot of the benchmarks .. that you’d think the governor would be interested in. It is something that he is continually harping on – reimagining New York and how we do business.”

Along with looking at new ways to facilitate services in line with Albany’s wishes, the meeting focused on five other pertinent areas:

-- Shared jail housing opportunity;
-- Maintenance of the current jail;
-- Cost of boarding out inmates if current jail was closed;
-- Status of activity on new jail:
-- Impact of bail reform, social justice on jail population.

SHARED JAIL HOUSING OPPORTUNITY

According to Landers, who is cochairing the jail steering committee with County Sheriff William Sheron, officials from Orleans County are willing to team with Genesee to explore the possibility of a joint facility.

“Building a new jail with the opportunity to do that with a partner up north – that’s where we’re focusing our energy and efforts right now,” he said. “It’s going to rely heavily what Albany allows and what kind of funding comes out of stimulus 4 on the infrastructure side and what kind of funding comes out of Albany.”

A shared jail could lead to increased efficiency in the delivery of services, with technology likely to stay in play, Landers said, noting the current use of Skype and other video and teleconferencing software.

County Public Defender Jerry Ader said he foresees legislation to allow for a greater use of electronics for proceedings, but “it may take a while and it may not be as much of a cost-savings as we’re led to believe.”

“Right now, our jail is across the street and other than maybe bringing an inmate from the prison, which is a state cost, or if we have female inmates in jails outside the county, which might be some savings, I don’t think you’re going to get the savings you’re expecting just on electronics … that’s just my opinion,” he said.

Landers mentioned that with a new jail, “there’s probably less opportunity for that (type of) savings because it’s not going to be that difficult to transport people from the jail right here in Batavia (compared to having to transport from other parts of the state as has been the case).”

MAINTENANCE OF THE CURRENT JAIL

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said the county will be unable to avoid ongoing expenses (repairs and renovations connected to safety and mandated services) to keep the current jail in the City of Batavia going for, what could be, another three to five years.

In a discussion with the Public Service Committee last month, Hens said that $3.5 million worth of projects at the 40-year-old jail are on the punch list for the next five years if the county is forced to hold off on the new jail.

Concerning the new jail, Hens said to expect a 30-percent increase – or $50,000 -- in his facility maintenance budget to run a facility of that size, and a similar percentage add-on as the cost of doing business in New York State.

COST OF BOARDING OUT INMATES

Sheron said that the state Commission on Corrections recognizes that the county is in a “pause period” and has not indicated it would shut down the current jail.

But in case that did happen, the going rate to house out inmates is $100 per inmate, Landers said.

“It would be sizeable cost on an annual basis if we were forced to do this, if we had a population of 50 or more, but at the same time there would be the opposite cost of running a jail that would help offset that cost,” Landers said.

The assistant county manager noted the good working relationship among the COC, sheriff’s department and the architects and engineers involved with the project, so, “we would have significant lead time if there’s anything brewing that we need to be concerned about to start planning for.”

STATUS OF ACTIVITIES ON NEW JAIL

As indicated, the new jail project is in a holding pattern, but the county has closed on the land acquisition, and the schematic designs of the jail are complete, Landers said.

He said the county has two contracts in force – one with SMRT, the design firm, for about $2.3 million and one with Pike Company Inc., the construction manager, for around $1 million.

Both SMRT and Pike are aware of the county’s plight and “looking forward to getting back to work on this project, just as we are,” Landers said.

To date, the county has spent more than $1 million on the contracts, which are being funded by established jail reserves built up by proceeds of the former county nursing home sale and higher than expected sales tax receipts in 2018, Landers reported.

“We have reserves of about four to five million dollars (the number is around $8 million when considering the jail reserve fund) that are going to be used in the short term to fund these contracts until we get long-term debt financing,” he said. “Once the long-term debt financing comes in, it will cover these contracts and replenish that reserve. So, we need that full reserve to help get through what we are calling the Delta period.”

Landers said that the financing plan has been “blown out of the water by COVID-19” since it was expected to use an increase in sales tax proceeds starting in 2020 to fund the debt service payment on the new jail.

IMPACT OF BAIL REFORM ON POPULATION

Landers said recent changes to the original bail reform laws could result in an increase in jail population, but it’s too early to tell how much as courts remained closed.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel reported that approximately 90 sentencings have been put off, and predicted that 30 to 45 percent of those people may receive jail time.

“The issue with that is, from district court, they won’t be doing sentencing for in-custody people until sometime in July, but they are starting to sentence people who are not in custody – and won’t have jail time built up,” he said. “I’m guessing our population sometime before this fall is going to come back up that 50 or so level at least.”

Landers said the county jail population in July 2019 was at the level we expected to be at in 2042,” he said. “Going back a year ago, there were concerns that we were building a jail that would be too small because our sizing had grown to what we were projecting in 2042.”

Today, the jail population is at 36, including one female who is housed in Wyoming County.

“This significant volatility is just another reason why -- until we have a clearer picture -- that we’re taking a pause in the timing,” he said.

May 19, 2020 - 11:27am

Genesee County legislators, governmental leaders and law enforcement personnel are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to sinking money into the existing County Jail on West Main Street while a $60 million new jail project remains on hold.

Members of the Public Service Committee, maintenance department heads and jail officials engaged in a 30-minute Zoom videoconferencing discussion on Monday, with everyone, at debate’s end, agreeing to spend only what is necessary to keep the current jail functioning at acceptable levels.

 “If the new jail is deferred for any length of time, relative to revenue problems, we have an existing facility that we basically have been duct-taping and bailing twine together for the last couple years with the expectation that we’d have a new facility in its place,” said Tim Hens, county highway superintendent who also oversees capital projects.

Hens said that $3.5 million worth of projects at the 40-year-old jail are “in the can” for the next five years if the county is forced to slam the brakes on the 184-bed, four-pod state-mandated new jail that was moving at full speed ahead in February – just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.

He said that replacement and/or repair of the heating/cooling system, fire protection/sprinkler system and plumbing top the list of items that need to be addressed, estimating the “high priority stuff” at $1.5 million.

“And that’s just looking at the jail, the rear portion of the building. This doesn’t consider the Genesee Justice and the front end of the building, which has its own issues and problems,” he said. “There is easily three quarters of a million dollars that you can put on the front end of the building just from a cosmetic stonework standpoint.”

Operationally, things could become much more expensive should the New York State Commission of Correction (COC) require Genesee County to start housing females at the jail, said Hens, noting that he has had talks with Sheriff William Sheron about that possibility.

“The operational change to do that would be very, very costly. I don’t even know how you begin to peel that off. You’d probably have to do another study. You’d have to parcel out a floor for females versus males, there would be significant capital change to adjust how the jail operates,” he said.

At this time, the jail population consists of 32 men and one woman (who is being held at a neighboring county jail).

Sheron said that extensive renovations would have to be made to the interior of the jail and that programming and compliance changes would need to be implemented to accommodate the female population.

“What that would entail at this point?” he asked. “I estimate millions of dollars to do that.”

Legislator Andrew Young inquired if any word had come down from the COC or anywhere else about directing the county to house female prisoners.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel answered that one of the reasons for a new jail is so the county could “bring female inmates back into our own jurisdiction.”

“They’ve already taken our variance away for males and weekenders and it’s only a matter of time, I feel, before that will go away for females, and they’ll say, ‘Well, population is down and you’ll have to house them there,’ ” Zipfel said. “I have every reason to believe it will happen if things continue the way they are. I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t.”

Dialogue on putting money into the old jail continued with legislators Gary Maha and Marianne Clattenburg and Zipfel agreeing to not put good money after bad, except for maintenance that needs to be done for safety reasons and to avoid a temporary shutdown of the current jail.

Clattenburg suggested calling a special meeting of all the legislators.

“If we’re going to put money into a jail that we’re not going to use much longer, I think that Legislator Stein might want to make that a Committee of the Whole discussion,” she said.

Hens recommended continuing the design of the new jail to have it ready to receive some favorable bids when legislators get more clarity on their revenue stream.

“You’re going to have some hungry contractors out there chomping at the bit since the private construction has basically been locked down for quite a while now and probably will be for the foreseeable future,” he reasoned.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers, who is spearheading the new jail plan, said the design of the project is complete.

“We’re there for a four-pod, 184-bed jail; we’re there with the design and ready to go,” he said. “Now it’s just a matter of when the dust settles to see that’s going to be what we’re moving forward with. And we’ll continue to have discussions with our regional partners.”

Landers added that county officials have built a solid relationship with the state and that COC officials would understand that “we’re at a reasonable place” with the design and haven’t abandoned the project.

Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein said this is an instance where the county can act upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plea to “reimagine government -- and especially in regard to this incredible cost of the jail project.”

“If we can’t move forward with talking about and demonstrating an opportunity for us to do a shared services model with the jail, we’re missing the boat as far as I am concerned,” she said. “We also need to fully understand what the new impact of social just reforms that went through this last budget that none of us have really talked about because we’ve all been talking about COVID and that’s where our focus has been.”

Deputy Highway Superintendent Paul Osborn then wrapped things up with a punch list of maintenance items at the current jail that could pop up in the coming months – two boilers in the basement (estimated at $20,000 per boiler to replace), an old generator (with renting one an option should it stop working), kitchen hood system ($4,500) and replacement of copper pipe in the sewer system.

May 3, 2020 - 5:19pm

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Above, from left: Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., C.O. Michael A. Cox, C.O. Adam C. Snow, Senior C.O. James M. Smart, Jail Superintendent William A. Zipfel, C.O. Trevor J. Sherwood, C.O. Christopher L. Seelbinder, C.O. Lewis A. Henning, C.O. Anthony J. Ridder, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur.

Submitted photos and press release:

On May 5, 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first full week of May would be observed as National Correctional Officers’ Week in recognition of the important role these officers play in our criminal justice system.

The position of Correctional Officer, once considered merely that of a “guard,” has become increasingly more complex and demanding, involving simultaneously custodial, supervisory, rehabilitation, and counseling roles, and that complexity continues to grow.

In the year 2020, Correctional Officers continue to play that vital role, but in an ever more stressful environment due to the current pandemic sweeping our nation and the world.

This week acknowledges the difficult job Correction Officers perform, locked within a facility for a large part of their day where they must securely, safely and humanely keep those committed to the jail, respecting the rights and dignity of all the inmates, including those who have been found guilty and those only awaiting adjudication.

Genesee County Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., along with the Genesee County Legislature, recognize these public safety professionals for their continued dedication, professionalism and commitment to public service.

The Genesee County Legislature issued a proclamation at its April 22 meeting recognizing May 3 – 9, 2020, as National Correctional Officers’ Week. The lights on the Old County Courthouse cupola will be changed to red, white and blue to acknowledge this week.

“The important and difficult role Correctional Officers fulfill is not always recognized by the general public,” Sheriff Sheron said. “If you know a Correctional Officer, please join me in thanking these men and women for their exceptional service.”

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Above, in the forefront: C.O. Philip A. Mangefrida; back row, from left: Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., Senior C.O. Peter M. Hoy, C.O. Austin J. Davis, C.O. Kelly P. Creegan, C.O. Michael F. Lindsley, C.O. Daniel J. Renz, C.O. Brian M. Manley, C.O. Cody D. NiCastro, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur.

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Above, in the forefront, Jail Superintendent William A. Zipfel. Second row, from left: Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr., C.O. Jason M. Buck, C.O. Marissa R. Jacques, C.O. Dennis J. Bartholomew, C.O. Tyler J. Stewart, C.O. Matthew M. Luce, C.O. John P. Garlock, C.O. Jared T. Swimline, C.O. Jenna R. Barber, C.O. Kevin P. Thomas. Back row, from left: C.O. Seth C. Rademacker, Senior C.O. Jason R. Queal, C.O. Michael A. Strumpf, C.O. Susan A. Mattice, Senior C.O. Caleb C. Chaya, C.O. Tyler M. Tambe, Undersheriff Bradley D. Mazur, Senior C.O. Matthew R. Burgett.

March 12, 2020 - 10:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in coronavirus, COVID-19, news, Genesee County Jail.

Press release:

Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr. announced this morning that he is suspending all inmate visitation at the Genesee County Jail. This will take effect tomorrow morning, Friday, March 13, until further notice.

This is a precautionary measure to prevent the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to employees, inmates and families.  

NOTE: If your group or agency is canceling or postponing an event, email [email protected]. We'll compile a list, post it, and keep it updated.

February 19, 2020 - 10:44pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Genesee County Jail, Commission of Corrections.

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While acknowledging a high degree of uncertainty brought about by New York’s new bail reform laws, Genesee County officials – working hand-in-hand with consultants, engineers and architects experienced in correction facilities – are moving ahead with their plan to build a state-mandated 184-bed jail on property just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.

“It’s the worst time in New York State history to be building a jail … but it must be built,” said Matt Landers, assistant county manager, referring to the state’s recently passed legislation that has eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and nonviolent felony offenses, thus reducing the number of those charged with a crime who are remanded to jail.

Landers, cochair of the jail committee along with Sheriff William Sheron, was speaking at tonight’s public information session at the Old County Courthouse about the proposed $60 million project.

Approximately 40 people, including county legislators, jail committee members and interested citizens, attended.

Landers and Rod Miller, president of CRS Inc. (Community Resource Services) of Gettysburg, Pa., a consulting firm that specializes in the correction and detention fields, agreed that the changes to how bail is applied have created a dilemma when it comes to projecting jail housing requirements.

Already, the new laws, which took effect on Jan. 1, have resulted in a downsizing of the new county jail from 214 beds (originally), then 200 beds – each with five pods – to 184 beds with four pods.

“They are the most extensive set of laws passed in the country,” Miller said, noting that California also is in the process of bail reform but not “as extensive” as New York’s. “We’re trying to anticipate the impact and that’s been very difficult. It’s kind of a crap shoot; there’s no question it will reduce jail population.”

Still, the county is obligated to replace its current jail at the corner of West Main Street and Porter Avenue.

Built in 1902 (with an addition/renovation in 1985), the jail is not conducive to effective supervision, has inadequate space for services and programs, and does not have the capacity to house female inmates – a situation that costs the county hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to transport these women to other jails, Miller explained.

“The current jail deficiencies are pretty well documented,” Miller said, adding that the county is liable no matter where inmates are housed and must abide by strict state Commission of Corrections standards that cover safety, security, separation, conditions of confinement, and medical and mental health care.

In reality, the COC is driving the bus, so to speak, toward the erection of a new jail.

“The COC decides how jails operate and the capacity of the facility,” Miller said. “They had to approve the number of beds.”

The COC also requires all cells to be single occupancy – “a big impact here on the design (and accompanying cost),” he said – and “direct supervision” management of inmates, again a safe but costly proposition.

“Costs increased 20 or more percent per square foot due to the strict requirements,” Miller said, “and that is borne by the county.”

Previously, Landers submitted a budget for the project that shows actual construction costs at $49.7 million. The price tag increases to $60 million when adding in design, furnishing, bonds and insurance, construction management, planning and development, and unexpected costs.

County officials said the jail will be funded by bonds that will be paid back by sales tax revenue that has been shifted away from towns and villages per a new state-approved sales tax agreement. They also said that jail construction will not result in a property tax hike.

Miller pointed to the contribution of the county’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council, which helped all parties in assessing future population trends and housing needs.

“We had access to their monthly meeting and had plenty of discussions,” he said. “CJAC represents all facets (of criminal justice and law enforcement) and is a model for other communities.”

Explaining that the “number of admissions does not correlate to the number of beds used,” Miller said that after three days, 47.9 percent of inmates have been released, after using only 1.6 percent of the total beds. Furthermore, 73 percent of all inmates are gone within 30 days, having used just 13 percent of the annual beds.

“The three days (data) is the target of the bail reform laws,” he said, “and it is very tough to figure out the impact of bail reform in the long term.”

He also emphasized that the new jail will have a specific area for “central arraignment” and processing – a cost-saving measure – and is likely to take in inmates who formerly might have been headed to state prisons.

Most importantly, Miller said, the new jail will provide sufficient female beds, house detainees who present substance abuse problems, and provide a secure treatment facility and acceptable short-term holding and separation.

He did mention the possibility of a regional jail, noting that there are 130 of these types of facilities in the United States, but said that although “they make a lot of sense in principle, it is hard to find a solution that works for all parties. It is not a viable solution right now.”

Following Miller’s presentation, Graham Vickers, principal/director of justice practice for SMRT, an architectural firm out of Portland, Maine, gave an overview of the site plan.

“We have been working with the (Genesee County) group since 2017 and are 50 percent through the design,” he said, adding that they’re shooting to break ground this September.

Vickers said the building will consist of a front portion for staffing and programming and a back section of four separate rectangular structures behind.

He termed a space dedicated for arraignments as a “unique feature” that will limit travel expense and security issues.

“The jail has an internally driven design … which considers those who work there and those who are detained (first),” he said.

He also noted that there will be “educational spaces” for religious or classroom teaching, with the day room built with a safety as a priority.

The day rooms are being built with an emphasis on safety, he said. Landers added that the dayrooms in each pod are designed in such a way that one corrections officer will be able to oversee up to 52 inmates, making them "much more efficient."

Landers said the new jail is being constructed with a life expectancy of 50 to 100 years. He applauded his committee for its hard work.

“We did our best to analyze the data and trends, believing that they will start emptying the state (prison) population into our jail,” he said. “We spent the last three years of analysis … without having a crystal ball (to decide what is) best for the future.”

At the end of the formal presentation, two Batavia residents offered their opinions and asked some questions.

Ron Greer, former Genesee County Jail superintendent, said “you’re going to have a hard sell (with the public),” directing his comments to county legislators.

He said that he hoped that the county could generate revenue right away – and not a year down the road – by housing females.

Still, he acknowledged the county has the responsibility of taking care of all who are sent to jail.

John Roach asked what the plan was for the current jail, suggesting that the city may be abandoning the building next door (the current City police headquarters) in the near future.

Landers said SMRT has been charged with providing possible solutions, but no decision has been made yet.

Roach also asked if the new building considered the disabled – it does meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, Vickers said – and if juveniles would be kept there. Sheron replied juveniles would be housed somewhere else.

As far as double-bunking is concerned, Roach said, “they have that in Attica. It’s OK for them but not OK for you.”

It also was pointed out that the design’s infrastructure (such as heating/cooling and kitchen) is in place to handle the addition of two pods if necessary, and that the county will need to hire more corrections officers and support staff.

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Photo at top -- Rod Miller and Graham Vickers; photos at bottom, various views of the proposed new county jail -- floor plan, dayroom and similar facility. Photos by Mike Pettinella.

February 22, 2019 - 11:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, jail, news, notify.

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County officials are ready to move ahead with plans for a new Genesee County Jail, which begins with hiring an architectural firm to help plan and design it and hiring a general contractor to oversee its construction. The new jail could be located on land already owned by the county next to County Building #2 on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

The County Legislature is expected to pass two resolutions next week to move the plan forward. One will authorize spending $2.5 million from the county's building and infrastructure fund, and the other will authorize a contract with SMRT Architects and Engineers PC, of Latham.

Approval of the resolutions was recommended this week by both the Public Service Committee on Tuesday (photo above with Asst. County Manager Matt Landers and Sheriff William Sheron seated at the conference table) and the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

Landers told the Ways and Means Committee that the county has yet to establish the actual cost of the new jail. That will be determined by the review and consulting process with SMRT Architects, who will also assist in hiring a construction manager, who will also assist in estimating the cost.

Once a cost is established, the county can seek bond financing, and once the bond is approved, the $2.5 million from the reserve fund will be reimbursed to that fund.

If, after site review, SMRT does find the site next to County Building #2 suitable for a jail, the county's planning costs could be substantially reduced because there will be no need for a site-selection process.

SMRT was one of four finalists firms reviewed by a jail committee comprised of county officials from multiple departments. Two finalists were interviewed and those two were asked to submit final prices, then the committee conducted reference checks.

SMRT was selected by the committee on a 7-3 vote with one abstention, Landers said.

The county is establishing a page on its website that will provide the public with all of the information available on the new jail as the process progresses, Landers said. 

Landers expects more information on costs and a construction timeline to emerge within six months.

July 12, 2018 - 5:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, Genesee County Jail, Sheriff's Office, news.

normretirejail2018.jpg

Twenty-five years ago, at age 38, Norm Itjen decided to become a corrections officer in the Genesee County Jail figuring it would be the kind of job that would offer security and help him reach retirement.

Tuesday, he proved his hunch right. He retired and was given a warm send off by his coworkers, and colleagues within the Sheriff's Office and Batavia Police Department.

A native of Elba and graduate of Elba High School, and currently the mayor of Elba, Itjen's first career was as a maintenance worker at St. Jerome's Hospital. He also had a security officer job before taking the civil service exam and getting hired at the jail.

The best part of the job, Itjen said, was the people he met.

"Through the years, I've become president of our local union, president the New York State Deputy Sheriff's Association," Itjen said. "I met people all over the state and made lots of lifetime friends."

Over the years, many people have started their employment with the Sheriff's Office at the jail and later moved onto road patrol. That wasn't part of Itjen's plan.

"At the time, I wore glasses," Itjen said. "At that time you couldn't work on the road if you wore glasses. And then my age also played a factor."

Now at retirement age, Itjen says he has plenty to keep him busy. Besides being mayor, he likes camping, golf, and he's a volunteer at his church in Morganville.

"I also have a beautiful granddaughter," he said.

normretirejail2018-2.jpg

Corrections officers, Sheriff's Office command staff, several deputies and Batavia PD officers, saluted Itjen as he walked out of the Genesee County Jail for the last time.

normretirejail2018-3.jpg

On his last day of duty, Itjen shakes hands with Officer Kyle Krtanik, working his first day of duty with Batavia PD. 

February 27, 2018 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news, notify.

Faced with increasing pressure from New York's corrections commission, officials in Genesee County are exploring the requirements and necessity of building a new jail.

Among the first steps -- meet with a consultant who has studied the local criminal justice system and the current jail and hear what he learned and what he has to recommend.

Saturday morning, members of the Legislature, senior county offiicals, and Sheriff's Office staff met to hear what that consultant, Rod Miller, president of CRS Incorporated, had to say.

The bottom line: Genesee County needs a new jail. It may need to be built to meet a projected jail population of 184 by 2042. Such a jail could cost more than $52 million.

The design of the jail must also deal with reality -- the reality of state regulations and the needs of a jail population that is ever in flux.

Miller is recommending a jail design that can accommodate a growing inmate population, but one flexible enough to accommodate an average daily population that is ever changing based on age, mental stability, special needs, and gender -- these days that means not just male and female groups. The new jail also needs to accommodate transgender individuals.

Getting the public to accept a new jail, Miller acknowledges, will be difficult, but he doesn't think the state is going to give Genesee County much leeway.

The commission, he said, takes very seriously its goal to ensure a safe and operationally efficient jail system. 

New York has standards, he said. Half the states don't have standards for local jails and among those that do, New York is one of the few with strict and well-defined standards. 

"To me, that's a good thing," Miller said. "You've got somebody backing you on what you need to do."

To the advantage of local officials, Miller said, the county already has the system in place to support a modern jail.

"You have a very proactive criminal justice and social services system that works well together," Miller said. "It's really very impressive."

The biggest expense of a new jail over 30 years isn't the construction, Miller said. It's staffing. That will take up 60 percent of the county's expense over the first 30 years of a new jail's lifespan.

"New York is very intensive on staffing requirements," Miller said.

The current, aging jail, however, hasn't evolved, Miller said, to meet the demands modern society puts on it, or how the local criminal justice system to keep short-term stays at the jail to a minimum.  

The county's criminal justice system does a good job of diverting people from jail, toward release under supervision, or treatment for mental health problems or substance abuse. Therefore, generally, the people who are in the jail stay longer than three days -- more than half of all incarcerations -- and these are people who need to be there, Miller said.

But when it was designed in the 1980s, the architects didn't anticipate a facility that would mostly house people staying there for months at a time.  That's common with older jails, Miller said. 

"A lot of inmates will tell you," Miller said, "that if you're going to do a long time, jail time is the worse time."

Looking at jail population trends, the number of local average daily incarcerations is going to grow from less than 100 now to more than 180 by 2042, Miller said.

The growing inmate population locally isn't driven by more cops on the beat -- there aren't -- nor an increase in the crime rate -- it's gone down -- or any other identifiable socio-economic trend Miller said, except that more and more women are getting into serious legal trouble.

Most of Miller's projection anticipates a sizable increase in female inmate population in the coming decades. Whether that trend will continue, Miller acknowledged, just isn't something he or anybody else can predict. He said all he and the commission can do is look at the trends to come up with projections. He said intuitively, they know that much growth isn't likely, but if they back off that projection, how do they arrive at a realistic lower number? The data isn't available to support any other projection.

One thing that is known: jails need to deal more often these days with transgender individuals.

That's a sticky issue for corrections officials because you can't simply just place somebody with a male or female population based on physical appearance, what's on their birth certificate or driver's license, or their self-identification of gender. Placing an inmate with the general population based on any of those decision points is potentially dangerous.

"It's a dilemma," Miller acknowledged. "It's a practical and legal consideration. One of your obligations is protecting inmates from harm so there needs to be separation. You probably need a small housing unit for just one or two inmates at a time. You have to have that flexibility."

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel told the story of a recent inmate who identified as female. She even had a birth certificate and driver's license that said she was female.

"If you saw her sitting at a table or walking into a room, you would not identify her as anything but female," Zipfel said.

She hadn't yet gone through a sex-change operation, however, and the Genesee County Jail can't house female inmates.

"There was not another facility that was going to take her as a female and we can't put her in a male facility," Zipfel said. 

Fortunately, a judge was willing to release her to the supervision of Genesee Justice, Zipfel said.

As good as the local criminal justice system is, Miller said, there is one gap local officials should consider addressing. Currently, the county doesn't have a good way to deal with people who don't have mental health or substance abuse problems but are otherwise in life circumstances where they would benefit from supervision while their cases are pending or while serving time for a conviction.

Miller recommended -- and said he's seen it work very well in other jurisdictions -- inclusion at a new jail location a facility that houses inmates during non-work hours but allows them to hold down a job. In fact, to live in the facility, inmates would be required to hold down a job and they would help cover the cost of their room and board.

The addition of a facility to house people in this subcategory of not-hardened-criminal, nor the mental health case, nor substance abuse case, especially during pre-trial periods, would be welcome by local judges and magistrates, Miller said. It's always a struggle, he said, for magistrates to decide what to do with this class of offender, whether to put them in jail or release them into the community.

The option would also assist the community by helping to prevent defendants from losing jobs, which can just make their problems worse, and therefore they become more of a burden on the community.

Jail for a defendant, Miller noted, is always the more expensive option.

The jail also isn't equipped to deal with the recently arrested who might be released in less than a day after being taken into custody.  

With local courts increasingly not opening for arrests at night, more defendants are being held for extended hours until the court is open for their initial arraignment.

Batavia PD, Le Roy PD, and Corfu PD do not have appropriate holding cells for such inmates. Batavia PD might look at adding holding cells in its plan for a new police headquarters, Miller said, but that is going to add to the expense of the facility and require extra staffing to monitor detainees.  

Once a police station has such holding cells, Miller said, the department's legal liability for the safety of the inmates increases tremendously.

It makes more sense, Miller said, to build the new jail with a plan to house and hold people for short-term stays and ensure those people are segregated from the regular jail population unless they are accused of serious crimes and are likely to be bound over anyway.

"The county can be the most cost-efficient and effective alternative to providing the service to the city, towns, and villages instead of letting them fend for themselves," Miller said.

Zipfel said one issue the local jail has with the state commission is how to handle new inmates.

When an inmate is processed they are classified in order to determine where in the jail they will be held. The state requires that they are tested for drugs and have a criminal history completed while they are being held for 72 hours before being classified. During that 72 hours, they should be under constant observation, the state says, and not mixed with another classification of inmate.  

The Genesee County Jail completes drug testing and a criminal background check immediately upon admission and then classifies them.

The difference in procedures is a source of friction between the local jail and the state commission, Zipfel said.

Any inmate who arrives at the jail under influence of drugs or alcohol must remain under constant watch, which the current jail makes difficult for corrections officers to do safely. 

Zipfel also discussed part of the admission procedure for female inmates: They are also given a pregnancy test. All of them. Jail officials are not allowed, by state regulation, from placing handcuffs on a female inmate who is pregnant or has been pregnant within the previous six weeks.

Miller acknowledged, based on his experience of going through the process in other jurisdictions, that some members of the public are going to try and find every reason not to build a new jail. He recommended officials develop a plan to educate the public on both the necessity and requirement the county is facing to build a new jail.

Which brought the legislators in the room to the discussion of whether it's realistic to discuss a regional facility shared with Orleans County. Setting aside the appearance that Orleans County seems to be heading in its own direction, officials discussed the logistic difficulty of a shared facility.

If it were in Orleans County, say, Barre, Genesee County would face the burden and expense and lost patrol time of driving inmates to and from Barre. There would also be issues to address about how the jail would be staffed, who would be responsible for it legally, or how that burden would be shared, and it isn't at all clear a shared facility would save either jurisdiction any money.

"If you have to build a jail that is twice the size with twice the staffing, how does that save money?" Legislator Marianne Clattenburg said.

There are states with examples of successful regional jails, Miller said, but in those states, the state government picked up half the cost of the jail.

That isn't likely to happen in New York.

"Unless the state picks up at least 50 percent of the cost, it's just not feasible," Legislator Gary Maha said.

April 18, 2017 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news.

The issues of an aging jail population, women involved more often in habitual criminal activity, and a greater availability and use of illicit drugs continue to vex local officials struggling to maintain cost controls on the Genesee County Jail.

Sheriff William Sheron and Jail Superintendent William Zipfel briefed members of the Genesee County Legislature at yesterday's Public Service Committee meeting on the issues that make jail operations difficult.

The expense of female inmate transport has been an ongoing issue for the past several years and the number of female inmates has held steady recently. Some of the transports have taken deputies further away from the county because of inmates with more serious issues.

Sheron said inmates have had to be placed in jails as far away as Wayne and Steuben counties.

"These are individuals for whom we’ve exhausted every alternative to incarceration," Sheron said. "They’ve been through the cycle. They’ve been before the judge many times and, basically, there is no place to put them but in jail."

Zipfel first raised the issues of older inmates and more drug problems during budget discussions in October. The problem may not have grown since then, but it's not going away.

To illustrate the kind of tougher inmate population correctional officers are dealing with these days, Zipfel told legislators about an inmate brought into the jail Friday night. He had been combative with the arresting officers but calmed down after being admitted into the jail. He was allowed to mingle with the general population, but later in the evening, he started to cause problems. He was locked in an isolation cell.

Over the course of the night, Zipfel said, the inmate slept maybe 15 minutes.

"He kicked the isolation cell door so hard and so often throughout the night that he took it off its tracks," Zipfel said. "I had never seen that in 30 years."

He had been tested for drugs and the results were negative, but a second sample was tested for PCP, Zipfel said, and that was negative.

It was only because a county mental health worker and a judge were available on a weekend that jail officials were able to transfer him to a mental health ward at another facility.

"It’s because of those relationships that are very unique to this county, that you don’t see anyplace else, that we were able to make that happen," Zipfel said. "If we hadn’t been able to make that happen, that would have cost us more over time."

The rise in opiate use is also having an impact on the jail. More and more inmates are coming in who, if not on opiates at the time, they are addicts, and if any newly incarcerated inmate is high on an opiate, then that creates another burden on correctional officer time.

"The commission has come down and said that now if somebody is under the influence of opiates, they’ve got to go on constant watch until medically cleared, which could take some time," Sheron said. "That’s a new directive that has come up in the last six months."

The subtext of all these issues is that the Sheriff is operating an old jail not designed to house female inmates, or deal with the growing medical, mental health and substance abuse problems present in the current jail population.

A new facility would help increase command and control, officer safety, as well as better meet the medical and mental health needs of inmates, Sheron said.

“Those are the kind of issues that the corrections commission is very forthright (in telling us) that we need to address,” Sheron said.

February 17, 2017 - 12:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, news.

County legislators are being asked to approve a $110,000 expenditure to start a feasibility study on the construction of a new county jail.

Both County Manager Jay Gsell and Sheriff William Sheron told members of the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday that the county would be better off getting out in front of the issue instead of waiting for the Corrections Commission to come down hard on the county.

"If we didn’t at least show progress, do a needs assessment, they’re going to pull the variance," Sheron said.

For at least 15 years, the jail has been operating with a variance for the number of beds in the jail, and without it, the county would have to ship some portion of its male prisoner population to other county jails, like they do now with female inmates.

“If we have to start boarding out males at $85 to $90 a day aside from our 11 this week, I believe it was, to 22 females, that starts to push our costs outside the realm of reality," Gsell said.

Legislators asked if the study would take into account the county's ability to pay for a $35 million to $42 million facility, Gsell said the cost issue wouldn't be a factor if the county did nothing and the state forced the county into building a new jail.

"If we don’t do this and let the commission drive us the way they did the last time we had to add seven people into the complement of people (at the jail) because of the posts we have versus what they wanted us to do, then shame on us because, basically, our inability to pay wouldn't really factor into it," Gsell said.

Legislator Shelly Stein asked if the study would look at what services were offered through the jail. In an era of rising addiction rates, she said it was important to her that drug treatment and mental health professionals have better access to inmates.

Gsell said a needs assessment would gather input from all interested members of the community and all of those issues could be brought to the table.

After the meeting, Sheron said the Sheriff's Office is already in the process of working with drug treatment and mental health agencies on creating treatment programs at the jail.

The process would also include discussions on a joint facility with Orleans County, which has already had variances rescinded for its jail, perhaps even bringing Wyoming County into the discussion for a three-county facility.

April 14, 2015 - 2:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, Genesee County Jail.

Press release:

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office recently filled four vacant Correction Officer positions with the hiring of Eric T. Hayes, James M. Smart, Brett J. Peters, and Kevin P. Thomas. 

These four Correction Officers graduated in a class of 19 on Thursday, April 2, 2015, from the Erie County Basic Corrections six-week Academy that was held at the Erie County Training Facility. Speakers at the graduation were Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha and Wyoming County Sheriff Gregory J. Rudolph.  Training at the academy included instruction in the care and custody of inmates, inmate supervision, defensive tactics, firearms training, and other topics pertaining to corrections.

Sheriff Maha stated, “Correction officers Hayes, Smart, Peters and Thomas will be great assets to the Jail Bureau and excelled at the Corrections Academy."

October 30, 2014 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

Deputies spent 8,544 hours on inmate transports in 2013.

Most of those transports involve shuttling female inmates from Genesee County to jails in other counties that can house female prisoners (something the local jail was never designed to do).

Some of those transports involve taking inmates to and from court, and to and from doctor's appointments.

Those 8,544 hours equal more than 1,000 eight-hour shifts, or about 213 weeks of work for a deputy working five, eight-hour shifts a week.

In other words, the Genesee County Sheriff's Office is using the equivalent of four full-time deputies to move prisoners from one location to another.

Rather than spending their time out on road patrol fighting crime and assisting residents, deputies are stuck behind the wheel of a police cruiser driving on roads far from Genesee County.

Not coincidently, Sheriff Gary Maha is planning to request adding four new deputies to the department in 2016.

Members of the Legislature are asking if there isn't a better way.

Options were the topic of discussion during a budget session in the Old Courthouse on Wednesday.

With Undersheriff William Sheron, Jail Superintendent William Zipfel and Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble in attendance, legislators talked about whether it would be best to hire a part-time staff to transport inmates or try to expand teleconferencing for court appearances.

"We're looking for some middle ground where we might be able to get these deputies back to where they belong," said Ray Cinanfrini, chairman of the Legislature.

A few part-timers, who would have the flexibility to meet the demands of unpredictable transport needs, would cost less than hiring new full-time deputies, though no analysis has been done yet on the cost.

Sheron said the part-timers will still need to be sworn police officers, but their duties could be limited to transports.

At a previous meeting, legislators suggested hiring a private security company with bonded guards, but Sheron said the inmates need to remain under the custody of the Sheriff at all times for legal and liability reasons.

In an era of expanding technology, teleconferencing seems to be an option. Thanks to a state grant received two years ago, the jail already has a room set up for teleconferencing.

It's never been used.

Local courts have resisted the teleconferencing option, but Cianfrini said maybe it's time to start pushing local justices and defense attorneys to use the system.

Sheron said it would be helpful if all the local courts ended night court proceedings and scheduled all appearances during the day.

No decisions were made Wednesday.

As the current proposed 2015 county budget stands, property taxes would be reduced from $10.04 per thousand to $9.86.

July 15, 2014 - 4:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Genesee County Jail.

Early this morning, an inmate was discovered hanging by a bed sheet inside his cell at the Genesee County Jail.

The 36-year-old victim was pronounced dead at the scene by Coroner Karen Lang.

The Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation into the death.

His name is not being released pending notification of relatives.

The inmate was found by a correctional officer at 12:34 a.m.

Attempts to revive the individual were unsuccessful.

City fire and Mercy EMS responded to the emergency. 

An autopsy will be performed by the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.

The inmate was recently arrested on a felony charge and was being held on bail.

The investigation is continuing.

January 22, 2014 - 3:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

With 30 years in the NYS public employee retirement system, Jail Superintendent Ed Minardo has decided maybe it's time take his life in a new direction.

Minardo, who became superintendent in 2011 after six years at the helm of Genesee Justice, is retiring effective March 28.

“Basically, I have my 30 years in with the New York State retirement system and was contemplating the opportunity to do some other things that I have had a long-term interest in with regard to restorative justice issues and also teaching,” Minardo said. “So it just seemed like the right time to do it."

Minardo currently teaches at the College at Brockport and RIT and says teaching is something he could stick to, but he says he’s still exploring future options.

“Where I go from here or what life is going to be like...that’s going to be kind of an unknown,” Minardo said. “I’m not quite sure. I think what I hope to be able to do is try to take a little time when I first retire and kind of get a sense of what I’m interested in doing and then kind of go with my passions where I follow from there.”

“I’m sure I’m going to be very busy doing something,” he said. “I don’t see myself ready for the rocking chair too soon.”

He started his career in the early '80s with the Town of Greece Youth Bureau as a youth referral counselor. He worked at the NYS Department of Corrections for 18 years.

In 2010, Minardo voluntarily gave up his job as director of Genesee Justice to help slash the county's cost of running the program and ensure its continued existence. Genesee Justice hasn't been seriously jeopardized by the budget ax since then.

December 5, 2013 - 10:28am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail.

A 36-year-old Genesee County Jail inmate with a history of heart-related medical issues collapsed in the general housing unit yesterday morning and an hour later was pronounced dead at UMMC.

Wallace E. Urf, of 6262 Telephone Road, Pavilion, fell unconscious at about 7 a.m. Correctional officers responded immediately and began CPR. Urf was transported to UMMC and pronounced dead at 8 a.m.

Urf was incarcerated Nov. 27 on an alleged parole violation.

The NYS Commission of Corrections was notified as required by law and will investigate the cause and circumstances surrounding Urf's death.

There is no sign of foul play, the Sheriff's Office said.

The exact cause of Urf's death is unknown pending an autopsy.

September 20, 2013 - 9:02am
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Genesee County Jail.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley is in the midst of leading his annual Patriot Trip to Washington, D.C., but he just sent over this statement regarding the unfunded mandate by the NYS Corrections Commission requiring Genesee County to spend another $1 million on jail guards:

I was apprised by Genesee County officials of yet another $1 million unfunded mandate from Albany about a week ago. We are working closely with county officials to remedy this. When will Albany ever get it?

September 19, 2013 - 8:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Jail, michael ranzenhofer.

We requested a statement from Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer about the unelected NYS Corrections Commission requiring Genesee County to add $1 million annually to the county budget to fund 10 more jail guards.

Here's Sen. Ranzenhofer's statement:

I have recently had an opportunity to speak with Genesee County Officials about the Commission’s report concerning the county jail. Our office will be happy to work with the Sheriff’s Office and members of the Genesee County Legislature in the event they believe we can be of assistance to them.

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