Herkimer County's new jail project is coming closer to reality. The Village of Herkimer and the county have been locked in a legal battle over the jail's placement for months, but a decision is expected any day. Our Andrew Sorensen tells us where the controversy stands, and how the county hopes a strong new ally will help them end the process more quickly.
HERKIMER, N.Y. -- Herkimer County wants to put a new jail, which could house hundreds of more inmates at the former P & C site. But the village zoning board zoned out the land as ineligible for a correctional facility.
"Last year we budgeted $950,000, and spent $950,000. We budgeted that again for this year and we project we'll spend about $1.45 million this year," Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace said Wednesday.
That's how much the county anticipates they will spend on boarding next year if appeals in their current lawsuit with the village drag on.
"The majority of the legislature believes that the best thing for the taxpayer for the property tax payer is to go ahead and build a new facility," Wallace said.
Legislators representing the village fear the jail's tax-exempt status would mean a loss of revenue. The county says they looked at other sites, but they were forced into this one because of its access to water, sewage, and open land.
"We don't want to put a legislature in a predicament we're in 20 years from now when they go to expand, and you can't expand the kitchen, you can't expand the dayrooms." said Wallace.
Some villagers ironically critique this site for being too small and limited for future expansion. It's blocked on one side by Route 28, another by a hill, and even another by water.
"I don't want to have the same situation here 30 years from now, people saying the same thing, we should have never built it on such a small site," said Herkimer County Legislator Robert Schrader (R).
Other legislators say the project is too big and they don't want to build a jail which would be boarded out to other counties, but they may not have a choice. A letter issued this week by the State Commission of Corrections says they side with the county, and the county's interests pre-empt those of the village.
"We really think that clarifies our issue," Wallace said.
The county says they will use the letter to appeal any decision against their case, but they hope to settle the matter and start building as soon as possible.
Village officials could not be reached.