Year of the Scrooge: Dutchess Buys Land for Jail Expansion, Fails to Address Homeless Crisis

by Hank Gross, Mid-Hudson News

POUGHKEEPSIE – Fiscal 2014 is gearing up to be the Year of the Scrooge for Dutchess County. Tax cuts trumped social programs Monday night, as legislators upheld County Executive Marcus Molinaro’s austerity vetoes, approving his budget to forsake emergency homeless funding previously approved by lawmakers.

Molinaro smacked down a $10,000 addition to Hudson River Housing, which provides a shelter with several dozen beds. Current homeless estimates for the Poughkeepsie area exceed 1,000. The organization will instead receive $50,000 in the form of several one-shot Community Development Block Grants.

Lawmakers noted that regardless, funds won’t reach the needy before springtime. Hudson River Housing also indicated the shelter is at capacity and cannot provide more beds with such money.

There is one place the county is building its housing capacity – the county jail. Legislators overwhelmingly approved $1.3 million to purchase 4.6 acres of land across from the Walkway Over the Hudson. The former factory property is being put aside for future jail expansion.

“This is a processed driven outcome,” Molinaro said.   “Identify what we need with our current population, with projected future population and how best to confront it.”

The purchase of the land gives a canvas to start from, the county executive said.  He added that he remains cautiously optimistic for state approval of temporary prison housing pods. Over $8 million per year is spent boarding inmates outside Dutchess.

“Bringing inmates back will produce some cost savings, but it’s also about the logistics,” Molinaro said.

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