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Written questions only at upcoming jail forum

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 26, 2010 — Monticello resident Tom Manza is worried about this Wednesday’s public forum with NYS Commission of Correction Chairman Thomas Beilein.
Wednesday’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.
“I think it’s going to be a little one-sided,” he told legislators at their meeting on Thursday, noting time is being set aside for county officials to present the history and current status of the county jail and efforts to construct a replacement.
Manza, who lives within a mile of the proposed site of the new jail, wanted legislators to allow him or someone else on the opposing side to make a presentation as well – “not to argue with him; just to be able to make a statement.”
“I think the presentation is going to be factually based,” Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis replied, “not advocating for or against.”
Indeed, in recent weeks, some legislators and county officials have expressed deep concerns about financing the new jail, which would cost from $60-$100 million.
Manza, however, doubted the presentation would be free of advocacy, also criticizing the plan to only entertain written questions at the meeting.
“To me, that’s not really a public hearing,” he said.
Rouis responded that the state has put that requirement on the meeting, not the county.
“Everyone who comes to that meeting should be heard,” argued Legislator Kathy LaBuda.
Legislator David Sager agreed, “but this is not high school debate club.”
After Thursday’s meeting, Rouis said he is intent on ensuring everyone has a chance to ask questions and make statements, and he’s doing that by soliciting those comments in writing in advance.
In the meantime, Manza said he and others opposed to the new jail site are taking their concerns directly to Beilein’s office, advocating for him to open up the meeting to public speakers.

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