Sheriff Amato seeks funds to renovate jail

Montgomery County Sheriff Michael Amato says the county jail is in serious need of renovation, and he says he can pay for the work with money the county gets for housing federal prisoners.

Amato attended Tuesday’s meeting of the county legislature’s Public Safety Committee and outlined $165,000 in improvements to the building’s infrastructure, including new software for the civil office, new bolt-down chairs, a vehicle for the jail, new portable radios, and computer hardware and software for the jail cameras and “card-swipe” system. The current jail cameras are not recording anything, and the “card swipe” system is not working either, Amato said.

“The building is 16 years old and runs 24/7/365,” Amato said. “I’ve tried to go through regular channels, but the money has always been cut. It falls on my shoulders to raise this money.”

The county receives $115 per day for each federal prisoner it houses, Amato said. Right now 30 federal inmates are housed in Montgomery County.

“I believe I will surpass what I’m asking for by a couple hundred thousand dollars,” he said.

Committee members voted to move the resolution to the full legislature for its meeting March 22.

The resolution calls for the money to come initially from the county’s appropriated fund balance, then be replaced when the federal money comes to the county.

Responding to questions from legislators, County Attorney Douglas E. Landon explained why the money needed to come from the fund balance. He said the county charter prohibits changing the budget until the amount listed for a certain category is reached. Amato said he budgeted $700,000 in revenue for housing federal prisoners.

“What’s anticipated here is that the revenue from housing federal prisoners will exceed the amount in the budget,” he said.

County Executive Matthew Ossenfort urged legislators to approve the resolution.

“Moving forward, we want to make this part of the [county’s] capital program,” he said.

John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.