Atlantic County commissioners hand over loss of Levinson to jail

Atlantic County manager Dennis Levinson isn’t used to losing.

For example, he has never lost an election in the last 35 years.

However, the Atlantic County Board of Commissioners handed Levinson a rare loss yesterday.

The executive branch issued a resolution to expand the Atlantic County Jail, to accommodate more prisoners. Specifically, to house 250 Cumberland County inmates.

There was bipartisan opposition to Levinson’s resolution, which fell through 9-0 at the Atlantic County Commissioner’s meeting yesterday.

If you’re only doing basic math, it seems pretty hard to justify. The cost to build the Atlantic County Jail expansion would be in the range of $17-20 million.

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,” estimates that a new addition to the jail could generate $1 million in revenue a year.

The county commissioners aren’t buying it.

Another “negative” is the location of the proposed addition.

The Counter Jail is right next to the Atlantic County Institute of Technology, a premier learning institute. Only a fence separates the two properties.

The Atlantic County Institute of Technology is undertaking a $53.5 million expansion this year.

Expanding the prison at a time of school expansion and growth doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Levinson is a former Freeholder and longtime Chairman of the Board. It is an excellent counter of votes. I don’t remember Levinson ever putting something together and laying it down 9-0.

The County Jail Committee is chaired by Commissioner Frank Balles. They carefully studied the proposal and concluded that it would result in the hiring of 40 new officers.

The Atlantic County Jail is 40 years old and at the end of its useful life. It makes no sense to add another $20 million addition to this facility.

Commissioner Jim Bertino asked last night if anyone from county government had spoken with Hamilton Township, where the jail is physically located.

It’s hard to believe, but no one from the county told Hamilton Township about it.

Atlantic County previously entered into an agreement to house Cumberland County prisoners at 50 per month, until it reaches 250 prisoners per month, as space permits.

With this expansion measure failing, Atlantic County will likely have to repay Cumberland County $450,000.

The Board of Commissioners agrees that there are deficiencies at the Atlantic County Jail that should be corrected. They study how to proceed to carry out the necessary and prudent repairs, due to the aging of the installations.

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