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Orleans County Legislature

December 12, 2008 - 1:44pm

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?

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