Herkimer village officials said the options presented to them by the county legislature chairman regarding the construction of a new jail within the village limits was never official and was also considered confidential at the time it was made.
On Monday, Herkimer County Legislature Chairman Vincent J. Bono announced the three options he presented to the village in March regarding compensation for the county using the former P&C site on State Route 28 as the new jail site. Each offer totals more than $1 million — some with immediate payments and others that will pay back over the course of years. Bono and legislature Vice Chairman Bernard Peplinski met with the village board March 12 to present the offers.
Village officials previously rejected offers of up to $800,000, Bono said.
“As far as I know, there’s been no official offer from the county or that has been supported by the legislature,” said Herkimer Mayor Mark Ainsworth during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “[Bono] proposed these three options to us, but we don’t have a formal offer.”
Ainsworth said he and the board members were under the understanding the options were confidential. He said, however, the board wanted feedback from the community regarding the proposals. “Myself and the trustees are elected to represent the village,” said Ainsworth. “If the [constituents] come forward and ask us to seriously consider these three offers, then we will sit down with the county ... Except the village is not really interested in the jail.”
Ainsworth added, “I’m trying to look out for the residents we represent. That’s what they elected me and the trustees to do.”
Bono said the village had until an April 20 deadline to contact him about the options, but was told they were busy with the budget. “I thought my options would have at least been addressed as part of their budget concerns,” he said. “... Instead, I’ve received no response at all.”
Bono also said, “I’ve been more than sincere about this. I’ve given them every opportunity to come back and compromise, but you need two entities to come together for a compromise. I’m the only one who’s offered anything. Even the legislators from Herkimer haven’t offered anything to the table other than criticism.”
Bono said though no official action has been taken by the county legislature regarding the options, he said he believed he had the support of at least nine legislators who would be in favor of the offers.
“I made it very clear in the beginning of our meeting that this was Jim Bono talking,” he said, noting he had Peplinski there as a witness. “What I was offering was offered in good faith.”
Bono also said, “But if we don’t hear anything back from [the village board], I don’t know if I’m anywhere close.”
Page 2 of 2 - Currently, the county is suing the village over its refusal to grant water and sewer permits for the project and for zoning issues at the site.
The issue is in front of state Supreme Court Judge Erin Gall and likely will be decided within a month, county Administrator James Wallace, Jr. said.
And if it’s decided in the county’s favor, Bono said he likely will rethink the offers and push for immediate construction. The P&C site is privately owned, and Wallace would not say how much the county hopes to buy it for.
Either party will be able to appeal the decision of the lawsuit.
The county is working on final designs for the jail — a long-running issue because of lack of space at the current county jail. The village has roughly $11 million saved for the approximate $33 million project, and will borrow the rest of the money, said Wallace.
The new facility will have 130 cells, with the capacity to have 154 beds using double beds in some cells. The current facility has about 40 usable cells, Bono said.
Contributing: Gatehouse News Service