HERKIMER — A public hearing on Herkimer County’s proposed use of eminent domain to obtain the former P&C site for a new county jail drew a standing-room-only crowd to the county Legislature’s chambers Wednesday evening.
Residents called for the Legislature to consider alternate sites and criticized the county government, the site selection process and the use of eminent domain to take possession of the proposed site.
County Attorney Rob Malone explained plans call for acquiring the former P&C site to build a 130-bed jail and administrative offices. The county Legislature passed a resolution in 2011 stating the proposed project would not have an adverse environmental impact on air quality, water or the character of the existing neighborhood.
Ron Hess Jr. of Herkimer took issue with eminent domain and taking another parcel of property off the tax rolls. He said high taxes are already crippling businesses.
"This puts another strangle hold on us," said Hess.
He recommended the county consider building the new jail on land behind Herkimer County Community College. The county already owns the land, the 911 center is located adjacent to the college and students in the college’s criminal justice program could intern with the sheriff’s department, he said.
Rebecca Cristman of Herkimer said her father taught her to "do the right thing and pay your taxes."
She said she worked full-time and paid her taxes for years. Now her taxes take about half of her retirement check.
"Why are we building a multi-million dollar complex that people don’t want on land the owner does not want to sell? He’s paying taxes on it. Why has there been no vote? You need to give the taxpayers a voice in how their tax money is being used."
Carl Streeter of Ilion disputed some of the information he heard from county officials including the amount the county would take in by housing prisoners from other counties and the idea the state was mandating the county build a jail. He said he had submitted a Freedom of Information request to see the document from the state ordering that a jail be built.
"There’s no such document," he said.
Streeter also said the 2011 vote to build a jail was taken at a special meeting at which no public comment was permitted.