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Quarter percent sales tax renewed in Herkimer County to raise more jail money

By PAT BAILEY

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Herkimer County Lawmakers voted Wednesday to renew a quarter percent of sales tax that will specifically be used for the construction of a future jail.

Despite the fact the process to put a new Herkimer County jail on Route 28 in Herkimer is a slow one, the county has been saving money for a new facility. Four years ago, the body started collecting the extra quarter percent for the construction of a roughly $30 million jail.

Since that time, lawmakers have built up a $4.5 million savings, said Herkimer County Public Safety Committee Chairman Len Hendrix.

Lawmakers say the savings means they wont have to raise property taxes to pay for a new facility.

"Between the tobacco money we had, which was about $5 million, and the quarter percent sales tax, I think it has worked out well for the taxpayer," Hendrix said.

However, not everyone agrees with the stashing away of money. Legislator Helen Rose voted against the sales tax earmark, saying that without specific plans for a future jail, the county is putting the "cart before the horse."

"I would suggest we have pulled that money out of the economy without knowing (what we are building)," Rose said. "Will we build something? I'm sure there are votes in the room to do so, but I think the citizens have a right to know why they pay that quarter percent, (and) what they are buying."

The next step in the jail process is purchasing the land on Route 28, known as the former Pharmhouse plaza. The county recently made an offer of "a little more than a half million dollars" to the owner, said Len Hendrix.

The county has not yet heard whether or not Hendrix will accept or reject that offer.

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