Dems float detention center funding plan


Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature say they have a plan to pass financing for a new children's detention center — the center is already in the works. But Legislature Republicans have already rejected the idea once.

This latest proposal is just another aspect of a boiling — and increasingly sprawling — feud in the Legislature. The spat started when Democrats blocked a big borrowing measure as a way to try force a Legislature-led review of county-linked local development corporations. The children's detention center, and a developer's efforts to bring a Costco to Rochester, have now been sucked in.

This afternoon, Democrats sent a letter to County Executive Maggie Brooks — and a press release — detailing what they say is a way forward for the detention center project. But the matter could quickly get bogged down in technicalities, and the county administration and Legislature Republicans will probably seize on those details to slap back at the proposal.

Democrats want to add the project to the 2013 section of the county's 2013-18 Capital Improvement Program, a multi-year plan for construction projects and purchases. The Dems say that maneuver would allow the Legislature to vote on a financing measure just for the detention center project. And the reason that can be done, they say, is because the county incurred debts related to the project in 2013.

"That seems to be the best solution," says Democratic Minority Leader Carrie Andrews.

Democrats first floated this proposal during a special meeting of the Legislature held Friday morning, but Legislature President Jeff Adair, a Republican, rejected it.

"This is a politically motivated attempt to cover up their destructive opposition to the Capital Budget which provides thousands of local jobs and funds over $96 million in critical infrastructure and public safety projects," county spokesperson Justin Feasel said this afternoon in an e-mailed statement. "This is a fiscally irresponsible proposal because the County is not spending capital funds on the CDC relocation until 2014 so it defies logic to add it to the 2013 Capital budget."

The state is currently renovating vacant space at the Industry Residential Center campus in Rush for the county to use for its children's detention center. The county will have to reimburse the state for the work, and the state also wants the county to buy the space. County officials say they need to borrow $9 million for the project.

The project and the funding for it are urgent, Republicans say, because Anthony J. Costello and Son Development needs the land that the current detention center is on for its CityGate project. Specifically, Anthony Costello has said he needs to be able to take the existing building down so the site can prepared for Costco, which wants to start construction by June 1.

During a contentious and occasionally chaotic special meeting of the Legislature on Friday, legislators voted to include the children's detention center project in the 2014-19 Capital Improvement Plan. But Republicans tabled the $9 million borrowing measure. The larger capital project borrowing plan didn't pass and the detention center measure would have amended the larger plan, Republicans said. They tabled the measure because legislators couldn't amend something that didn't exist, they said.

But Democrats say that the Legislature could approve standalone borrowing for the detention center project.