Atlantic County Commissioners Hand Levinson Loss On Jail [Editorial]
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson is not used to losing.
For example, he’s never lost an election over the past more than 35 years.
However, the Atlantic County Board of Commissioners has dealt Levinson a rare loss, yesterday.
The Executive branch posted a resolution to expand the Atlantic County jail, in order to be able to house more prisoners. Specifically, to house 250 inmates from Cumberland County.
There was bipartisan opposition to Levinson’s resolution, which failed 9-0 at yesterday’s Atlantic County Commissioner’s meeting.
If you’re just doing basic math, it seems pretty hard to justify. The cost to construct the expansion of Atlantic County Jail would in the $17 to $20 million range.
The taxpayers would recoup their investment at the rate of $95.26 per inmate, per day.
Atlantic County Administrator Gerry Delrosso, a very good “bean counter” believes that a new jail addition could generate $1 million a year in revenue.
The County Commissioners aren’t buying it.
Another “negative” is the location of the proposed addition.
The Counter jail is directly next to the Atlantic County Institute of Technology, a premier institute of learning. Only a fence separates the two properties.
The Atlantic County Institute of Technology is embarking upon a $53.5 million expansion this year.
Expanding the prison at a time of school expansion and growth doesn’t appear to be a good idea.
Levinson is a former Freeholder and long-time Chairman of The Board. He’s a great vote-counter. I can’t recall Levinson ever putting up something and having it rejected 9-0.
The County jail Committee is chaired by Commissioner Frank Balles. They thoroughly investigated the proposal and concluded that it would result in having to hire 40 new officers.
The Atlantic County jail is 40 years old and has the end of its serviceable life. It makes no sense to add a $20 million new addition to this facility.
Commissioner Jim Bertino asked last night if anyone from the County Administration has spoken with Hamilton Township, where the jail is physically located.
It’s hard to believe, but, no one from the County has talked to Hamilton Township about this.
Atlantic County has previously entered into an agreement to house Cumberland County prisoners at the rate of 50 per month, until it reaches 250 prisoners per month, as long as space allowed.
With this expansion measure going down to defeat, The County of Atlantic will Likely have to repay Cumberland County $450,000.
The Board of Commissioners does agree that there are deficiencies at the Atlantic County jail that should be fixed. They are looking into how to proceed with making necessary and prudent repairs, due to the aging facilities.
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