Dan Hust | Democrat
A GROUP OF neighbors are actively opposing the new county jail site along Old Route 17 in Monticello. From the left are Tom Manza, Stephen Pavlak, Holly Foschino, Barbara Pavlak and Steve and Barbara’s son, Mark. Behind them is the proposed location of the jail, near Route 17’s Exit 104.
new jail site
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO The argument over whether the proposed site of the new Sullivan County Jail is just right or just wrong has finally arrived at the Government Center.
At least with the neighbors.
Two weeks ago, a group of Old Route 17/County Route 174 residents gathered for a private meeting with several legislators and County Manager David Fanslau.
The citizens all live within a mile of what’s known by county planners as the Mapes-Pittaluga site, a 50-acre field just off Route 17’s Exit 104 that is now in negotiations to be purchased by the county for a state-mandated replacement to the century-old jail on Bushnell Avenue in Monticello.
The residents told county officials that they felt deliberately shut out of the process, kept in the dark so as not to cause controversy.
They spoke of their worries about decreased property values, increased traffic and the dangers posed from escaped prisoners. And they asked the county to find another site.
But apparently, all they’re going to get is an apology for not better informing them, along with a promise to keep their quality of life in mind when building and operating the new jail right next door.
“Unfortunately, no one’s going to be happy,” observed Legislator Jodi Goodman.
That includes people like Tom Manza, Barbara Pavlak and Holly Foschino.
“We all live in proximity of the proposed site,” said Manza, who’s become the group’s unofficial spokesman. “We got together and decided to start a petition.”
Bearing 266 signatures, the petition was handed in at the end of July and garnered the meeting with the county. (A prior petition with about 80 signatures had been submitted in March, but residents heard nothing back.)
Many of the signatures are from people living miles away from the proposed jail site, but Manza indicated it’s about the notion that anyone facing such a project in their back yard would want to be personally notified ahead of time.
That never happened because it was never legally required, according to county officials.
As a result, however, “we didn’t feel part of the public process and felt slighted,” said Manza.
There were at least two public meetings on the jail in the last year, not counting legislative committee meetings that are open to the public, but up until this past winter, many of the neighbors thought the jail was on the next road over to the east, thanks to another paper’s inaccurate news report.
Many other neighbors, said Manza like those in Delano Village, a community of about 100 mobile homes didn’t read or listen to local media reports or missed the required legal notices published in the back pages of the papers.
Most legislators appeared sympathetic to the concerns over notification, but to a person, they don’t plan on advocating for a new site.
“It could have been handled better,” acknowledged Legislator Leni Binder, “but I’m not sure it would have changed anything.”
On Friday, find out what each legislator, the county manager, sheriff and neighbors have to say about the site and its selection.