County Manager Daniel Palmer and Sheriff Richard Cutting speak to members of the Essex County Public Safety Committee.
Revenue continues to be down at the Essex County Jail.
Sheriff Richard Cutting spoke more about the issue during the March 12 meeting of the Essex County Public Safety Committee meeting and said that he has been in touch with other counties.
“We have been talking with Greene, Duchess, Oswego and Herkimer counties,” Cutting said. “We have told them that we are here and negotiable. Unfortunately, our location hurts us in this. This is not like a car business where we can put three more calls out or call for a sale.”
Cutting said they have also been in contact with the U.S. Marshals about boarding their prisoners.
“There are new facilities being built that are more central for these other locations,” Cutting said.
“I remember Sen. Little telling us that this was going to be a problem,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “Are we now actually losing money if we are taking in less inmates from elsewhere?”
Scozzafava and others asked if there could be a cost savings by closing down one of the facilities, or “pods,” which then would not have to be staffed.
“We are running 42 of our own male inmates,” Cutting said. “We have two male pods and each holds 40, so we have to have the second facility open. Even if we did not have the federal inmates, I would have to have two facilities open.”
Cutting said that, even with only two prisoners over, they have to fully staff the facility.
“I have to staff those facilities if there are five inmates or 35 inmates,” Cutting said.
Cutting also said that, at present, there were only three female inmates.
“So we have to staff an entire unit as if there were 20 females there, even though there are only three,” Scozzafava said. “Could we save money by farming them out to other facilities?”
“I was told by the state that it would be discriminatory to house out females, whether it was financially responsible or not,” Cutting said.
“To have to fully staff a facility for only two or three inmates is not a wise way to run a business to me,” Scozzafava said.
North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi said that he was still concerned because of the loss in revenue.
“I am concerned that you are going to be down a half-million or more in revenue, and it does not appear that we can make any cuts to offset the loss,” Politi said. “It may make more sense to drop our charges and be able to make some money instead of none. I would rather lose $200,000 in revenue rather than $600,000.”
“I have offered to be competitive with other counties, but they have not come to the table,” Cutting said. “If they had sentenced, long-term inmates, that would not be the problem. It is the ones that still need to be transported to and from courts by other counties. That is a four-hour ride for Oswego County.”
“I would say go as low as you can, which is better than getting nothing,” Politi said. “We need to make these counties an offer that they cannot refuse.”
“I am trying,” Cutting said.