Thursday, August 21, 2008

Northampton County Exec Stoffa Proposes Moving All Admin Offices to Gracedale

During a lengthy finance committee hearing yesterday, Northampton County council members were supposed to hear details of a $30 million bond for a new parking deck, among other things. But county exec John Stoffa, at the last minute, pulled that item. He told council members there's a more pressing problem - the prison.

Northampton County's prison, built in 1871, has "outlived its usefulness," according to consultants from Highland Associates. It's a "problem waiting to happen." Six unpleasant and expensive options were presented for bigger prisoner warehouse, one that can pack in around 1,488 inmates. The county could simply abandon the site and start out fresh somewhere else. $130 to 136 million. Cha ching! It could rip down the old prison and build a seven story monstrosity that Eastonians are sure to love. $128 to $132 million. Cha ching. And, of course, it could split operations up and still spend gobs of money.

As consultants laid out the proposals, exasperated Finance Chair Ron Angle questioned where we could build a new prison or even have a split operation. "The reality here is, who the hell wants a new prison?"

To make matter worse, John Stoffa informed Angle's committee that once a new judge is legislated, the brand new courthouse will be full.

Stoffa suggested that all administration offices should be concentrated at Gracedale, which is the geographical center of the county. The Bechtel and Governor Wolf buildings would be sold and the vacated government center would be left for the courts. That would leave more room for both the judges and the people they send to jail. It might even eliminate the need for a $30 million parking lot. It might even reduce the cost of a proposed prison expansion.

Whether Stoffa is right or wrong, it's clear the county is suffering from a lack of long-range planning. In 2001, when the first prison expansion was proposed, everyone knew it would be full the moment it was built. It was a $29 million band aid.

Instead of planning how to embarrass Stoffa, council members should help him plan the county's long range needs.

It's called governing. What they've been doing is called politics.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

several observations:

-the existing prison can be demolished and replaced in phases to more than double its capacity, without substantially increasing its footprint. at the same time, the county should be aggressively pursuing alternate incarceration for nonviolent offenders. I know Stoffa had a plan re the latter, but has he made progress?

-Stoffa has been in office almost 3years now. it's well-past the time where he can blame reibman or any other administration for lack of planning. he needs to stop deliberating and move the ball forward himself.

proposing moving to gracedale is a start. at the same time, plans already exist to expand the courthouse and prison on site, if the need exists.

-Stoffa is the exec, not council. they may be childish difficult to work with, but that is nonetheless his responsibility. Whether or not you agreed with his policy goals, Reibman actually managed to work with a council that actively detested him. It is John's responsibility to do the same.


John's M.O. of endless deliberations and then change of focus are counterproductive. while i respect his intentions and motivations, he needs to cut the Hamlet routine and move forward.

(The answer is "to be".)

Dave said...

Moving work release and treatment to the proposed site in Beth. Twsp. will lower the prison pop. by 300. If the judges restrain themselves and stop putting everybody who comes before them in jail..we might avoid this whole mess! The prison is littered with mentally ill people who derive no benefit from incarceration at tax payer expense..same with drug addicts and other non violent people.Angle is right..buildimg more of the same is insane!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 5:54,

As you probably know, I'm a John Stoffa fan. But your criticism is spot on. It blew my mind yesterday. After so much deliberation and heading in one direction, to change course so suddenly is a little weird. It is poor planning.

The funny thing, though, is that he's also probably right.

As far as alternative incarceration goes, Stoffa continues to move in that direction. The proposal you mention is one of the 6 options.

Dave said...

Put the money into positive programs..re-entry,half way houses,mental health,counselling,be creative in sentencing instead of punitive! Try to save families instead of destroying them! Self injurious behavior does not warrent prison time.Violent people need to be put away but not everybody who stands before the bar! Think outside the box for cripes sake!

Dave said...

Prisons are BIG business..look up the facts! Stop the madness and turn back! The last place I want my taxes to go is to build more human warehouses!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave, Stoffa agrees with you. The judges agree with you. The problem, in many cases, is that we now have "mandatory minimum" sentences. In many cases, the judges have no choice. So the answer is to develop programs that prevent recidivism. That's what the Beth. Tp program is being proposed, as I'm sure you know.

Another point I'd make is that all the experts are projecting increased populations and increased crime. Is this necessarily true? I'm not convinced of that.

Anonymous said...

Build a prison the same size or bigger than lehigh county. In time you will need the space. Crime never slows down it just continues on. Asking the Judges to "restrain" from putting people in prison is stupid. If someone commits a crime and the penalty is prison then thats where they go. Drug addicts become violent in time due to there addiction making them do whatever it takes to get there fix. Stoffa should give us one big prison. With one prison it would cut cost having it allunder one roof. Granted inside of the "new" prison there could be groups and consuling etc. for those who would benefit from it.

Dave said...

This is where the rubber hits the road..The pols in H-burg got to repeal those get tough on crime bills they passed way back when! Have the guts to stop this thing before we all end up behind bars! None of them will do it because then the voters think they are soft on crime! Self fullfilling prophesy..the more prisons you build the more people you sentence to prison! A maddening vicious cycle that MUST be broken!

Anonymous said...

If you have a prison that only holds 100 people and its full. The criminals hear this and know the chances are slim of being put in prison since theres no room. Build a big prison and even if its half empty one day it will be full due to the climbing crime rate. Plus if they would have extra space you could rent it out to other counties for there inmates just like Northampton has been doing since there prison is so small.

Dave said...

We were fine till the crime bills hit! Mandatory sentencing..why have judges then? Why have trials? Slippery slope..isn't it?

Dave said...

The Exec's plan is worth pursuing..it makes as much sense as anything else I have heard and it contains costs and may put the need for a new prison on the back burner for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

Every time Stoffa speaks, the price tag gets higher. We're getting the same shaft we got under Reibman; it just has a less pugnacious approach. Get ready to pay and pay and pay.

Dave said...

Constructive criticism would be a good place to start. Let's hear some solutions instead of whining about your tax bill! Can't have it both ways..you want more prisons..ANTE UP!

Dave said...

How much are you willing to spend to feel safe? How many prisons will it take? The prison doesn't do anything constructive for these people! 70% return..again and again! Let's try something different? This is a broken system that eats your money and destroys salvagible people and their families!

Anonymous said...

Dave relax guezz how many of your family members are in prison?

Dave said...

Is that all you can come up with? Hope your not in charge of anything pertaining to me and my family! Just a pathetic reply!

Anonymous said...

Dave maybe you want consuling at the new prison because you need it?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Alrighty then. No need for personal shots.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you want to be next??? HA!HA! Just kidding you get it enough.

Anonymous said...

I say we make constructive use of Peg Ferraro's Stockertown trailer.

Anonymous said...

I have witnessed judges, when they explain the sentence to a convicted defendant, note for the record, that the prison is full (especially for women inmates)and that is one reason the sentence involves probation, not county jail time. Just an observation.

Anonymous said...

I am still baffled as to why we did not partner with Lehigh County in the Salisbury Annex facility for an alternative sentencing facility for non-violent prisoners. If anything made sense, that idea did. Sharing costs with another county has been done in eighth class counties. Why can't we?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ask Judge Freedberg. . . . Then run like hell.

Anonymous said...

Your right of course, as to who pulled the plug, but the merit of the idea was sound. And I think I can still outrun Gino!

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I have said many times that a new building should be built at the Gracedale location for a lot of the non-court related offices. There is plenty of land there to build parking spaces for probably only one percent of the cost to build a new parking deck at the land locked, outdated,overcrowded,NCGC in Easton. I agree with Stoffa 100%. That is the same plan I have been saying on this blog for over a year. Thank you, Henry Schaadt

Anonymous said...

i. You will always need a prison regardless of how many do-gooders and money making 'counselors' say we can save the poor crimminal. The idea of reducing mandatory sentencing and repealing some outdated drug laws are fine but we need to deal with reality not wishes. There was a a multi-phase plan for the existing prison but the plug was puilled by Stoffa when he ended all things Reibman at the behest of his political handlers. That included the good with the bad. If someone is willing to break into my house for any reason I want and expect him behind bars. Citizen security comes first and it is a County priority, so suck it up.

2. Easton is the County Seat this move to Gracedale noise has gone on for years. Give it a rest as there are alternatives, leading to number

3. Stoffa, Dude, you are three years into your term and say 'we need a plan'. What a dolt. This guy is amazing. Love him if you want but he is the most inept governmental leader I have ever seen.

Dave said...

Don't hold back..tell us how you really feel? Bombastic drivel if I ever heard it..must be a politico! Blame is easy..how about some solutions..or is that beneath you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

There was a a multi-phase plan for the existing prison but the plug was puilled by Stoffa when he ended all things Reibman at the behest of his political handlers.

This is more disinformation and outright dishonesty from the Stoffa haters.

Reibman proposed a $29 MM bandaid that was full the moment it was built. In order to build this, he demolished a state of the art archives building.

He never pursued the multiphase expansion bc he lacked the political will to do the right thing.

Consultants presented six different options instead of one. They rejected Reibman's folly.

Easton is the county seat? Gracedale is the geographical center of the county. Perhaps the county seat needs to move unless you like being on a postage stamp.

Yes, Stoffa waited awhile before coming up with an idea. Reibman had eight years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dave,

Anon 6:35 has no interest in solving any of the county's problems. He is just here to bash Stoffa. He just made sure to throw a snark in on about three different posts.

Some people want to solve problems. others want to return to the good ol' pay to play days.

Anonymous said...

Play all the games you want. Stoffa can not lead his way out of a closet. Reibman had his faults but he had plans that worked. You and your psycho buddy Angle hated him, but the truth is the truth.
Your 'facts' on the prison are just anti-Reibman baloney. The County seat, fortunately, isn't something Angle can tell Stoffa to change since as you know the Executive does not have the power to change the County Seat.
Leaving Easton is as stupid as Lehigh county leaving Allentown. Stop being such a Stoffa suck-up that you ignore any semblence of reason or logic.
Wait??? three years is a nice wait, maybe some day he will start to do something.
If Dave wants to coddle prisoners he can adopt a few. I want them were they belong in jail.

Anonymous said...

I say........The county should work with the city of Easton. The prison could be built in the now abandoned about to be rehabed Delaware Terrace. This is out of the way and can be connected directly to 611 for easy access to the courthouse. Take the units proposed for the new Delaware Terrace and build them on the 400 block of Lincoln Street. This would take away a nasty, dirty piece of blight that framents South Sides neighborhood. The 400 block of Lincoln Street is currently an old factory that is considered blight.

Dave said...

Transportation costs then go thru the roof! They walk to court now! The prison and the courts have to be connected at minimum by walkways! Anything not court related should be moved off site! Once you get work release and treatment out of the building too..then you got a much more efficient system that won't bankrupt the citizenry!