Herkimer County, NY (WIBX) - The issue has been an on-going and contentious one, but another proposal to build a new jail in the Village of Herkimer is back on the table. Herkimer County Legislator and Chairman of the Human Resources Committee, Vincent J. Bono, says he's offering an array of incentives to the Village to finally get it on board with the plan. And, he adds, in light of its recent financial woes, outlined in the state comptroller's audit, the time to reach an agreement is now.

"The jail has been here 200 years in this Village. We're moving into the outskirts of the Village, which they wanted originally, so you know, I've given them everything that they wanted and more; made them whole on their taxes, we've given them their sales tax back, given them cash settlements, dismissing lawsuits, they would be paid in perpetuity, just like any other business, which no other government institution has right now," Bono said after his press conference announcing his three new proposals in the County Legislature Chambers.

Three legislators representing county districts 1, 2 and 3; Gary Hartman, Helen T. Rose, and Robert Schrader, submitted a joint press statement highlighting their concerns with Bono's plans. Some key issues outlined address the process undertaken to come up with the new proposals, building the new jail at the former P & C site, which is designated as a commercial site, and the long-term cost to Village tax payers.

Calling Bono's approach a "bully-like tactic", the statement in part reads, "Mr. Bono may believe this is an opportune time to rehash his proposals and inject himself into the budget developments for the village. Yet he has no authority to make any "offers" and such offers have not been considered by the Legislature. There is no question that the  citizens of Herkimer face many costs because they are the home to over 52% of tax-exempt property and the county is a large holder in that area. The tax-exempt problem is further compounded by the fact that Herkimer taxpayers are already penalized because the current flawed sales tax formula is based, in a large part, on taxable properties only. More exempt property means a lower share of sales tax revenue for Herkimer who provides the services to the businesses that generate much of that revenue."

Others against the proposal are members of Concerned Citizens for a Better Herkimer County. Chairman of the group, Joseph Chilelli, says they have a more cost effective way of dealing with the prison over-crowding issue the county is attempting to fix. "I think the best option that we have on the  table is to continue to use the current facility as a 41 bed jail by building an additional jail either next to it, on top of it, expanding it, in other words, right now you can't use the 41 bed because of the classification, but if you house just one classification you could utilize all 41 beds. In that case you would need maybe another 40-50 bed facility, saving literally half of the cost. We made that presentation months ago and the county didn't want to pursue it," he said.

However, Herkimer County Sheriff, Christopher P. Farber says the argument that it would be more cost effective to board out inmates and change the County's current prisoner classification will not meet the area's needs. "We're using currently four different facilities to board out inmates. So what happens is, we got a call from Montgomery County last week, we had eight inmates there--'you gotta move your inmates.' We have inmates coming in, Fulton County once in awhile, we have like 22 inmates boarded there. They have a big drug bust or something, 'you have to come and get your inmates that you have boarded with us,' we go through this all the time. We're going to be reaching out further and further as jail populations go up. As our jail population goes up, we're having a harder time finding other facilities close to us to take inmates to." And, he says there are certain inmates, those with diagnosed mental conditions, that can't be boarded out.

Bono said the figures Concerned Citizens for a Better Herkimer County are presenting as being more cost effective are "made up." He goes on to give this analogy for adopting the proposal on the table. "Do you mow your own lawn? Most people mow their own lawn. Why do they do it? Because it's cheaper to do it. If I had to pay somebody to do it, which we're doing now, it's just too costly. This county needs to mow it's own lawn when it comes to the jail issue. It's plain and simple, the numbers are there." Bono adds, "I wouldn't have made these offers if I didn't have the support of 9 [Legislator's] or better."

In the meantime, both sides are awaiting a judges ruling on a lawsuit, brought by the County against the Village, accusing it of obstructing plans to build the new 130 bed jail. Also, Bono's proposal states that initial offers of $400,000 and $800,000 were rejected by the Village before the three offers listed below, were presented.

Bono's Options:

Option 1

  • $155,000 Sewer hookup fee to be paid by County
  • $133,000 Quackenbush Lawsuit to be dismissed by County
  • Water and sewer rates to be paid for the jail will be similar to the Lowes Project
  • 2 1/2 times the residential water rate and sewer to be paid at 1 3/4 times the residential sewer rate, (approximately $60,000 annually)
  • Reinstatement of Herkimer's share of $300,000 of the sales tax distribution, (approximately $20,000 annually)
  • Help with engineering for College Hill flooding

Option 2

  • Flat $1,000,000 to be paid to Village throughout the build out of the jail, (details to be worked out)
  • $155,000 Sewer hook-up fee to be paid by County
  • $133,000 Quackenbush Lawsuit dismissal
  • Help with engineering for College Hill flooding

Option 3

  • Flat $6000,000 to be paid to Village throughout the build out of the jail
  • Reinstatement of Herkimer's share of $300,000 pf Sales tax revenues for the first 2 years, (approximately $20,000 annually)
  • Reinstatement of Herkimer's share of $600,000 of Sales tax revenues for years 3 and beyond, (approximately $40,000)
  • Help with engineering for College Hill flooding