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Economic constraints, public safety, and County Jail all big issues in Herkimer County Sheriff's Race
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) - In just a few weeks, Herkimer County residents will go to the polls and find two names on the ballot for the position of Herkimer County Sheriff - Incumbent Christopher Farber and Challenger Timothy Klock.
Klock has been a police officer for 27 years, and is currently an Investigator with the Oneida County Sheriff's Department. Christopher Farber was a Town Justice for more than 20 years before becoming the current Herkimer County Sheriff - a position he's held for two terms, and is now seeking a third.
Klock is running on a campaign of change, saying that he would like to see a drug task force created in the sheriff's office. However, with the current economic constraints that face the office like many others, Klock admits that a road patrol would not be feasible in bringing about a drug task force.
"It would be nice to have a road patrol, but I don't see that happening," Klock said. "The cost would be too much The taxpayers just could not afford it right now."
Instead, Klock says he is encouraging the concept of consolidation to see his vision of a drug task force through.
"Absolutely, that's some services we could do to consolidate with the agencies that are in the county, such as Herkimer, Little Falls and Ilion (police departments)," Klock said. "We could use some of them, work together and create some kind of task force, and work on the public assistance fraud unit."
Incumbent Farber is running on his record over the past eight years, highlighting numerous pieces of new equipment and initiatives that have been brought in to the office, such as a live scan finger printing system, a card system, a jail management system, Operation Safe Child, a new pistol permit system, and a new boat for the county to patrol the waters - items that Farber says, were necessary, but in a time of economic hardship, were obtained in a cost-effective way, through grants.
"All these issues, all these items that I have mentioned have benefited the whole county, have made sense for our whole county in a different way that doesn't cost the taxpayers money," Sheriff Farber said.
"Everybody just wants to see some change in the county," Klock said. "They want some savings."
Farber says that while he feels his office has been very prudent about maintaining services to the county and staying within their budgets, there are costs that have been out of their hands.
"Obviously there's things we can't control with budget issues, like boarding out , overtime is created from boarding out inmates and transporting," Sheriff Farber said. "Sickness for our employees and replacing employees that go to other agencies for better paying jobs. It's a constant struggle. Maintaining, hiring, training, and trying to keep good employees working for our county."
Farber says the main duties of the Sheriff are civil, administrative and maintenance of the jail. The future of the Herkimer County Jail has been an ongoing issue for residents and officials for several years, with some wanting to build a new jail along Route 28 in the Village of Herkimer and others wanting it to remain in the current jail building.
"I would like to see us focus on the current jail and see if we couldn't renovate the current jail and possibly expand on it," Klock said. "There's talk that says we can't do it. I don't see any data that says why we can't. There's nothing official. I've never seen any sound studies that say we can't. They go back to the idea that...they received a federal grant 34 years ago and it was built on federal standards. Well, the state accepted that back then. And maybe there's been some changes in the last 34 years. Why can't we still maintain that? Go back, fix those deficiencies, try to get it up to the standards the state wants and save the taxpayers a ton of money."
"It's beyond repair," says Sheriff Farber. "We've done a lot of repairs in that facility. When I came in, the first thing we did was put two new jail cell doors on. Since that time, we've made many upgrades to the correctional facility. We've put in some new ceilings, we've painted the whole jail...we've repaired bunks, we've repaired water pipes. The jail has been maintained. It's just the age of the jail is the issue and the efficiency of the jail."
"The design of the jail is the biggest problem. That's the biggest problem. It's so inefficient," Sheriff Farber said. "It's not cost effective to operate. It doesn't hold enough inmates . We have to board out, transporting all the time. We have to come to some resolution on this jail issue. Since I've been Sheriff, we've spent $6,250,000 and some change on boarding out inmates to other facilities. "And we have absolutely nothing to show for it."
"I believe if the people want change, they have the opportunity," Klock said of the upcoming election. He also said he believes that the Herkimer County Sheriff's Office currently has a very talented staff and one that he feels he could work with very easily.
"I am very confident working with the individuals down there, we can accomplish anything we want," Klock said.
Whomever puts on the badge post November's election, the final decision on the jail rests in the hands of the Herkimer County Legislators.
"Those aren't my decisions," Sheriff Farber said. "My job is to run the jail the best that we can with what we have and that's what we do."