On Saturday morning March 19, at 9p.m., many Herkimer county legislators will be gathering at the Town of Webb Muncipal building to join me in an informal get-together to meet the public. This is a rare event – in fact it’s only happened once before during my tenure and that was a few years ago in Old Forge when, as chairman of the Ways and Means committee, we held a meeting for area residents to view and then had a question and answer session afterwards. All are welcome to attend, and I hope to be able to discuss some of the aspects of the building of a new correctional facility. However, any topic that is important to residents can be asked and legislators will certainly do their best to provide the answers. Legislators who are also members of the Industrial Development Agency (IDA), the organization that drives the economic engine for the county, will be part of the discussion group, and I urge anyone interested in starting a business or who have a business looking to expand come to meet John Piseck, chairman of the IDA and legislator from Herkimer.
Two issues that have come up in a recent publication of the newspaper is the question is: 1)“Why doesn’t the county build on top of the already existing jail” and 2) the county has failed to do their due diligence by not doing an engineering study to ascertain whether a new correctional facility is needed.
Regarding the “due diligence” question, the topic of constructing a new jail facility has been on the table longer than the twelve years I have been in office. Frankly, I believe the details have been discussed thoroughly. A few years before I was elected, Len Hendrix (scheduled to appear Saturday) and a few other legislators visited a jail in Colorado, viewing aspects of the building the might meet the counties needs. Discussion began then, when the (State Commission on Corrections (SCOC) suggested the county’s facility needed updating and they wanted a new building erected. So that was about 14 years ago. Site selection alone took about six years, and the public was well aware of the various land options that were available and discussed. Legislators finally came together this past Wednesday night, in a vote of 14-2 to pursue eminent domain at the former P&C site on Route 28 in Herkimer. With the vote having passed, discussions will be held with the landowner to see if terms can be agreed upon. If not, then the county will go to court to take the property. I believe, the 14 years that this process has undertaken, has certainly met the criteria of meeting the definition of “due diligence”.
Why not build on top of the current facility? Our present jail is around 15,000 square feet. The new proposed facility is 87,000 square feet. Although, according to our engineer, two stories might be able to be added to the existing building, it could never accommodate the additional square footage needed to house the projected inmates over the next 20 years. So this question has been looked at and discussed repeatedly. Legislators did not want to pay for an engineering study we already knew the answer to. And, the SCOC says are layout it antiquated now. Why repeat the problem.
Hope to see you at Friday’s parade and please join us on Saturday morning at the Webb Municipal building.
Mr. Russell is Majority leader etc, etc,