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November 14, 2019 - 2:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jail, news, notify, batavia.


Now that a new 40-year sales tax agreement is in place, the County Legislature is ready to move forward with designing and building a new jail on land next to County Building #2.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers presented an anticipated budget for the new facility with an anticipated expense of $60,000,000 at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday night.

The proposed jail will hold 184 beds in four pods, giving the jail staff space to keep separate jail populations for men and women as well as threat level, mental health issues, or substance abuse issues.

The location is off West Main Street Road in Batavia. 

The actual construction costs are an estimated $49,763,323 million: with more than $2 million in expense for design; $2 million for furnishings; $1.2 million for bonds and insurance payments; $1.2 million for a construction manager; more than $1 million in additional expenses for planning and development; plus $1.8 million set aside for unexpected costs.

Construction will be funded by bonds, which will be paid back over 30 years by the sales tax revenue that has been shifted away from villages and towns as part of the new state-approved sales tax agreement.

Chairman Robert Bausch said that under this plan, there would be no need to raise property taxes to help pay for the jail.

Bausch also noted that the county's consultant initially projected, based on county inmate trends, that Genesee County would need a 215-bed facility but that a new bail reform law is expected to reduce the demand in the county for inmate beds.

However, there is room available on the proposed jail site to add two additional cell blocks if the need arises.

If sales tax revenue falls short in the coming years, Landers noted, there is other county debt that will retire and revenue now going to pay those expenses can be reallocated to the jail debt if necessary.

With the new jail, the county will be able to go from being a tenant in other agencies' facilities -- all female inmates are housed at other jails in the region -- to being a landlord for other counties, the state or the feds.

"Local counties, the federal government, the state, are all short of space right now," Bausch said.

Revenue from other jurisdictions will cover some of the jail's ongoing operating expenses.

Legislators Shelly Stein, Gary Maha, and Gregg Torrey all spoke in favor of proceeding with the proposal.

"I served on the new jail committee," Stein said. "The details were combed through, and it is my recommendation that we proceed with 184 beds ... To not hit property taxes," she added, "is a major win for what we've done together as a legislature."

The need for a jail is beyond dispute, Maha said. 

"I'm not fond of spending $60 million," Maha said but the current jail is in bad shape, is landlocked, and the state is demanding a new facility in compliance with state standards.

"This is the county's responsibility and we have to get a jail done, and we have to do it right," Maha said.

Torrey agreed with Maha and said, "we have one chance to do it right. We hired a consultant, and I think it's best to follow what they recommend we do."

Photo: Members of the legislature listen to incoming Legislator (not in frame) Christian Yunker on his thoughts about the new jail, which he also supports.

CORRECTION: The bonds will be paid back over 30 years, the maximum time period for bond payback under state law.

October 11, 2019 - 2:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sales tax, jail, news, batavia.

Sources say the legislation necessary to implement a new 40-year sales tax sharing agreement between Genesee County and the City of Batavia has been delivered to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

He now has 10 days to sign it or veto it or let the deadline pass (known as a pocket veto).

The bill incrementally shifts sales tax revenue previously shared with towns and villages with that revenue targeted to pay off bonds for a proposed $60 to $65 million jail and for water infrastructure projects.

As The Batavian reported exclusively two days ago, with the bill lingering in Albany, unsigned, the county was in danger of going without a sales tax agreement in 2020 and that County legislators felt it necessary to suspend the planning process for the new jail.

If the bill is signed, there will be a sales tax sharing agreement in 2020 and jail funding can be secured.

The state's Corrections Commission is requiring Genesee County to replace its substandard jail.

Previously: Plans for new $65 million jail put on hold while governor dawdles on sales tax legislation

October 9, 2019 - 10:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sales tax, jail, news, batavia.
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Many months of effort by Genesee County to replace its aging, legally out-of-compliance jail came to a standstill Wednesday night when the County Legislature, by consent, agreed to hold off on new jail plans until Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs sales tax agreement legislation that is necessary for the county to fund the jail.

The jail could cost as much as $65 million, which is money the county must borrow (through bonds) and the county won't be able to get those bonds without the 40-year sales tax agreement that will generate the revenue to pay back the loans.

The county and the city hammered out the agreement over the course of months of negotiations about how to divide the local portion of sales tax collected in the county and both elected bodies approved the agreement. The necessary legislation then went to the Assembly and Senate and was approved.

The bill now sits on the Senate president's desk awaiting a request by Gov. Cuomo to see it.  

He hasn't requested it and nobody knows why. It might be that there are 500 other bills on the Senate president's desk awaiting Cuomo's request, but nobody is sure if that's really the issue. Attempts by local officials to get an answer from any source, including the governor's office, have gone unanswered.

Meanwhile, the city and county don't have a sales tax agreement in place for 2020 and if they're going to have an agreement, absent the governor signing the 40-year-agreement bill, they must act fast.

The two municipalities could agree to extend the current agreement by a year or even extend it for 10 years. Either option could be approved on the State Comptroller's signature, without new legislation, but either option would also delay building a new jail by either length of time.

Once the governor requests the bill, he has 10 days to sign it or veto it, or he could do nothing, which is called a pocket veto. He could also let it sit on the Senate president's desk until Dec. 31, which is also a pocket veto.

If the bill isn't approved before Dec. 31, the whole process of approving a sales tax agreement would need to start from the beginning next year.

Neither the county, of course, nor the city, can wait until Dec. 31 to see if the governor will sign the bill. They need to approve a new sales tax agreement, if this one isn't approved, within weeks so there is time to get it approved by the comptroller's office and have it in place for 2020.

If there's no sales tax agreement, the county and city will not be able to fund normal government operations typically covered by sales tax revenue.

Chairman Robert Bausch is drafting a letter to the corrections commissioners informing them of the bind the county is in and asking if they can intervene with the governor's office.

County Manager Jay Gsell said the commission has been patient with the county over its current substandard jail on the premise that the county has been working toward building a new facility. 

Sheriff William Sheron said that a letter from the county might help extend that patience and at least put the commissioners on notice of the issue the county is facing.

Wednesday's meeting was initially called for the entire legislature to discuss jail plans and decide what would be included in the jail -- such as how many beds and pods construction contractors would be asked to bid on.

Some of that discussion took place, with an apparent agreement being reached on a four-pod jail with 184 beds. That would give jail staff the most flexibility in maintaining order and keeping different types of jail inmates, based on mental health issues and other factors, in appropriate housing.

After that discussion, Bausch brought up the sales tax issue and said he didn't see how the county could authorize the architect to start designing the facility because once the design is done, without a sales tax agreement, the county wouldn't be able to put the project out to bid because it couldn't get the project bonded.

"That would be pretty embarrassing for the county," he said.

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


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.

December 5, 2018 - 1:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jail, news, notify.

A committee assigned with selecting an engineering and architectural firm to plan and oversee construction of new Genesee County Jail has narrowed their search to two closely matched firms, Assistant County Manager Matt Landers told members of the Public Service Committee on Tuesday.

The two firms -- out of four that initially applied for the job -- are both so competitive, Landers said, that the committee has sent them more questions and asked for reference checks.

Rather than getting just references suggested by the companies, which will tend to be references from those believed to be positive, the committee is requiring reference contacts for the most recent jails the companies have been involved in building in New York.

"It's a good problem to have," Landers said. "They both scored very well."

Once the reference checks are done, the committee will interview the firms one more time and the committee hopes to have a recommendation to the County Legislature by the end of July.

Besides designing the jail, the firm selected will help with the site selection process and with hiring a construction manager.

The county has been moving toward building a new jail for a few years with cost estimates ranging from $35 million to $52 million.

The current jail doesn't meet current state standards, has damage related to age, lacks modern features, is undersized, and can't house female inmates.

Landers and Sheriff William Sheron cochair the jail committee. Of the eight other members, two are members of the Legislature and the remaining members are key county department heads.

January 5, 2018 - 3:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, Announcements, jail, genesee county legislature.

Notice from the Genesee County Legislature:

SMRT architects, engineers and planners will present an analysis of conditions to date / interim status report on the Genesee County Jail to the Genesee County Legislature at 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, in the Legislature Conference Room at the Old Courthouse, 7 Main St., Batavia.

July 14, 2017 - 1:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jail, Sheriff's Office, news, notify.


The path to a Sheriff's road patrol often passes through the Genesee County Jail for career-minded folks interested in law enforcement, and Darrell Klein thought that would be the path he would take when he signed on as a corrections officer 24-and-a-half years ago.

It didn't take him long, though, to figure out the jail was where he could do the most good.

"I liked the people," Klein said. "I liked the challenge, the feeling that I was doing something that mattered. People misunderstand what inmates are all about. They think they are bad people. They're not. There are a lot of good people here who made bad choices. It's nice to be able to help them when I can."

He said he will be look back at several memories where he feels he made a difference in people's lives. 

"Those are good feelings," he said.

Today was Klein's last day on the job.

"It's time to pass the torch to somebody else," he said.

January 12, 2016 - 11:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jail, mental health.

As the state has cut mental health services, counties have become increasingly burdened with dealing with de-institutionalized people who often wind up in trouble and in jail.

Locally, people involved in the criminal justice system would like to find ways to keep people with mental health issues out of jail, and to that end the county will apply for a grant to send five people to a summit in Washington, D.C., where local officials from across the country will discuss how they're dealing with these same issues.

"Everyone in the criminal justice community agrees this is an issue and it's an issue that is bigger than just us, so let's go talk with others in other communities and find out ways that worked in their communities and see if we can bring back some of those ideas to Genesee County," said Assistant County Manager Matt Landers.

Landers said Sue Gagne, director of the Mental Health Association, found out about the summit and grant for attendees and brought the idea to Undersheriff William Sheron, who brought it to Landers' attention.

Landers and Director of Mental Health Ellery Reeves presented a resolution authorizing an application for the grant to the Human Services Committee on Monday.

The committee unanimously recommended the full Legislature approve the application at its next meeting.

Though there are no hard numbers, it's clear there are more and more people coming into the jail who have mental health issues, Landers said.

"That number is growing and we don't think it's a coincidence that as the state is closing down institutions and these individuals leave these institutions and come back to their communities of home, that we are now finding some of these individuals using our jails," Landers said.

Mental health issues run the gamut, including depression and schizophrenia, that jail personnel are required to monitor. That adds to the expense of running the jail as well as increasing the jail population.

There's also substance abuse problems connected to these individuals, Reeves said.

"There is no separation," Reeves said. "Literally, when you're saying 'mental health,' you're saying 'mental health and substance abuse.' "

The goal of attending the conference is to find ways of linking services and strategies to either keep people out of jail or keep them in treatment once they're released from jail so they are less likely to return, Reeves said.

Landers said as much of 70 percent of the people incarcerated here at any one time might have mental health issues, which is substantially more, he said, than a few years ago.

June 4, 2014 - 12:06pm
posted by Judi Piscitello in jail, ministry, Genesee County Churches United, ministries.

May 29th marked the end of an era for Genesee County Churches United (GCCU) as Mrs. Helen Mullen retired as Treasurer after over 20 years of service to GCCU.  Tears were flowing this morning as I reflected upon the selfless service Mrs. Mullen has exhibited, not only with GCCU but also to countless Genesee County churches, ministries, and civic organizations through the years.  She and her husband, Mr. Robert Mullen, have been the face and voice of GCCU for quite some time, as Mr. Mullen has served as GED instructor at the Jail as well as Jail Ministry Committee Chair and Fair Committee Chair, gracing us with his strong tenor voice lifted to God at many a Fair Worship Service.  Mrs. Mullen’s service has been a tremendous blessing to GCCU and she will be sorely missed.  

The mission of GCCU is to bring Christians from all denominations across Genesee County together in the unity of the Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus to meet the spiritual needs of the community.  During the Annual Meeting last night, Mrs. Mullen recalled the history of GCCU, which began as the Genesee County Council of Churches.  The GCCU ministry has brought countless churches and individuals together serving in many ministries through the years, including All Babies Cherished, the Food Bank administered by the Salvation Army, a radio ministry, the Genesee County Jail Ministry, and the GCCU Youth Ministry. 

Currently, the Jail Ministry is GCCU’s primary focus, with Pastor Glenn Bloom, Jr. (formerly of Elba First Baptist Church) as the new Chaplain, and Pastor John Kula (Total Freedom Program in Darien) as Assistant Chaplain. The Chaplain and Assistant Chaplain provide individual spiritual counseling to inmates, and the Chaplain coordinates a schedule that brings pastors, priests, and teachers from various churches as well as Gideons assigned to provide the weekly Sunday Worship Services and Bible Studies twice per month, along with Bibles, Daily Bread Devotionals, and spiritual support. 

Former Chaplain Jay Grinnell and Assistant Chaplain Larry Becker (of City Church) have also served faithfully in the Jail Ministry, in spite of recent health concerns, pouring their hearts and souls into the inmates in order to bring them to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.  Pastor Becker has worked in the Jail over 20 years, spending far more time at the Jail than the few hours he logs in as Assistant Chaplain, working with the inmates and their families to provide the spiritual support needed.  Pastor Becker’s volunteer time always extended far beyond his time inside the Jail, as he often worked with inmates to help them find housing, rehabilitation, and jobs upon their release.  

On behalf of Genesee County Churches United, I would like to publicly honor Mrs. Helen Mullen, Mr. Jay Grinnell, and Pastor Larry Becker for their service to Genesee County, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I would also like to invite Christians across Genesee County to participate in GCCU by attending one or more of our monthly meetings, currently held the 4th Thursday of the month at 4:00 PM at Discovery Chapel, 315 West Main Street in Batavia. 

Judi Piscitello, Secretary, GCCU

January 22, 2014 - 9:36am
posted by Carolyn Della Penna in jail.

Works under the supervision of the Sheriff.  Anticipated start date is March 29, 2014.  $76,800 plus benefits. 

High school diploma / GED required.  Degrees listed below must be from a recognized college or university and experience must be in Law Enforcement, Prison or Corrections.  

Required is a Bachelor’s Degree and four years experience with at least two years in a responsible supervisory and/or administrative capacity

June 15, 2009 - 4:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, jail, Orleans County.

Regardless of the report in Journal-Register in Medina says Genesee County Manager Jay Gsell, residents of Genesee and Orleans counties should expect a new regional jail to come out of discussion between the two counties.

The Journal-Register reported this morning:

Johnson and the Jail Committee have been working closely with Genesee County, talking about the possibility of opening a regional jail to accommodate prisoners in both Orleans and Genesee counties. The Center for Governmental Research has been hired to do a study to determine if a regional facility would be economically feasible.

“We have to look at what’s the best taxpayer solution,” Johnson said. “A study hasn’t been done since the early 1970s, and right now, the promising thing is the good working relationship we have with Genesee County.”

The relationship between the two counties is great, Gsell confirmed, and CGR -- the same consultants helping with the consolidation study in Batavia -- is conducting a study to help the counties deal with an increase in female inmates, decreasing bed space, aging facilities and the best options for dealing with prisoners in the 21st Century, but a new jail facility is pretty unlikely.

"We started looking at what are alternatives to incarceration," Gsell said. "We're looking at electronic monitoring, release under supervision and things of that nature ... and now what we're looking at is having CGR ...  --  would it be advisable to have us look at on a two-county basis, maybe even a three-county basis, along with either Livingston or Wyoming, at some other alternatives to just building brand new jail space."

Gsell said there are a couple of people in Orleans County who seem to really believe that the process will inevitably lead to building a new jail, but he doesn't see that as an option.  It would be difficult, he said, to co-locate one facility under current statutes.

 Full Audio of Jay Gsell Interview

May 7, 2009 - 10:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, jail.

geneseejustice.jpgIf buildings had feelings, you could almost feel sorry for the Genesee Justice/Jail building at 14 West Main.

It's been more than a century since the building, which once served as home for the County Sheriff, got a new roof.  In fact, the roof you see crumbling atop the structure now is the original one from 1903.

The County Legislature's Ways & Means Committee approved a $264,000 bid for a synthetic slate roof to be installed by Grove Roofing Services of Buffalo.

Yesterday's vote was proceeded by some controversy. At the April 15 meeting, legislators questioned the authority of the city's Historic Preservation Board to disallow an asphalt roof, and after we reported that story on The Batavian, some readers raised concerns about the overall cost of the project.

After the bid was approved, I spoke with Terry Ross, supervisor of buildings and grounds for the county who explained that the size and complexity of the roof contribute greatly to the cost.

While prevailing wage rules do add to the expense, ensuring the building is well protected and maintains its historic look is not cheap.

Two significant factors in the expense, besides just the size, unusual shapes and slopes of the roof, are the need to replace all of the copper valleys as well as asbestos removal.

"It's a multi-faceted roof with many angels and it will be very labor intensive to replace," Ross said.

The roof is in such bad shape, it's been patched so many times, Ross said, that it is beyond further repair.

"There's no leaking yet, but there will be if it's not replaced," Ross said. "The slate is no longer in any condition that it can be repaired."

Even though legislators initially objected to the city blocking replacement with an asphalt root, which would be $67,000 cheaper, committee members agreed yesterday that putting on a synthetic slate roof made better business sense. It will last at least 50 years compared to 25 years for asphalt shingles.

"This is the best choice and a wise business recommendation," committee chairman Charles Zambito said. "Shingles don't cost as much but the synthetic slate doubles the life of the roof, so there's no point in fighting the city."

Zambito earlier noted that there was no case law or other precedent suggesting the county to beat the city in any legal argument over the city's authority on the choice of roofing material.

The committee approved the bid on a unanimous voice vote.

September 24, 2008 - 8:24am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, genesee county legislature, jail.

Genesee County legislators last night approved a grant application to study a shared jail facility with Orleans County, according to WBTA's Dan Fischer. Grant funds could total $50,000 for the study, and local taxpayers shouldn't have to pay more than $2,300. Also approved at last night's meeting: the purchase of Finn, a $7,000, 3-year-old, Czechoslovakian German Shepherd who will join the Sheriff's Department as their newest K-9 recruit. Finn's presence means that the current K-9, 10-year-old Jay, can finally start to phase into retirement.

Fischer reports some not-so-good news about the county's ambulance service. It's said that the city of Batavia is charging fees to the surrounding municipalities for providing coverage all over the county. Some towns—Darien and Pembroke are named—have complained that "there have been instances where the city has failed to show up for an emergency call," according to Fischer.

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