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County Sues State Over Cost of Housing Inmates
By DEBORAH MADISON
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
ELIZABETH — In a lawsuit filed last week in state Superior Court in Elizabeth, Union County is suing the State of New Jersey and the state Department of Corrections for $10 million to cover the county’s costs for housing state inmates in Union County’s Jail since 1991.
A contract between the county and the state stipulates that the state will reimburse the county at the same rate that it costs the state to house inmates, as determined by taking the average daily rate at three state prisons. The suit alleges that the state has failed to honor this contract.
From 1991 to 1994, the state paid the county $45 per day, per prisoner, for the cost of housing state prisoners; that rate increased to $58.50 in 1995.
“However, the state’s payments to the county of $58.50 per inmate per day is an arbitrary amount not based on actual costs,” according to County Council Carol Cohen. “The state cannot honor their contract because they have never shown us (the county) what their actual costs of housing prisoners are,” Ms. Cohen stated.
“The county wrote to the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s office in April asking for those figures, but we have not received a reply, as of yet, other than being told it would be looked into and passed along for review,” Ms. Cohen stated. “We never heard back from them.”
A similar lawsuit filed by Middlesex County against the Corrections Department last year, stipulated that Middlesex County was entitled to $75.78 per day per inmate and Middlesex County was awarded $4.8 million in that suit.
“The actual costs are closer to $80 per day,” Ms. Cohen stated.
Union County is suing for the difference between what it was actually paid and the higher amount awarded to Middlesex County of $75.78 per inmate per day.
According to Ms. Cohen, the state and the Attorney General has had
similar inquiries from Morris and Hudson Counties, in addition to Middlesex County, requesting actual state costs to house inmates.
However, Lee Moore, public relations officer for the Attorney General’s Office, told The Westfield Leader that he was not aware of Union County’s requests or lawsuit. Mr. Moore also stated that he could not comment on the status of this situation if litigation is pending.
Currently, of the 1,346 male prisoners and 212 female prisoners in Union County’s jail; 368 are male state prisoners, and 51 are female state prisoners. This is a typical breakdown of approximately how many state prisoners the county houses each year, according to Ms. Cohen.
According to a Corrections Department spokesman, the state prisons have a much greater capacity than the county jails to provide inmates with recreational space, rehabilitation programs, educational classes and other accoutrements. The county jails typically have space and staffing limitations, restricting inmates movement causing distress and tension among the population.
Additionally, the state inmates have usually committed more serious and more violent crimes than the county inmates. For these reasons, it is more desirable to transfer state inmates from the county to the state prisons, whenever possible, to reduce tension and overcrowding, as well as to provide more extensive rehabilitation programs, according to a corrections officer at East Jersey Prison who asked not to be named.
Chris Carden, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, confirmed that there are currently 14 state prisons, housing 23,571 inmates. Because of the pending Union County litigation, he could not, however, comment on whether this figure exceeded the state’s capacity or if overcrowding was the reason why state prisoners were being housed in county jails.
Heritage Festival Booklets Available Through County
Copies of the free illustrated guide to “Four Centuries in a Weekend... A Journey Through Union County’s History” are available.
The event will be held on Saturday, October 23, from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. and on Sunday, October 24, from noon to 5 p. m.
The 32page booklet has brief stories and photographs of 22 house museums, historic buildings and sites are part of the Heritage Festival. A map is included with all the sites marked.
Showcased during “Four Centuries in a Weekend” are the LittellLord Farmstead and The Deserted Village of FeltvilleGlenside Park in Berkeley Heights; Dr. William Robinson Plantation in Clark; CranePhilips House in Cranford; BelcherOgden Mansion and Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth; Evergreen Cemetery and Woodruff House/ Eaton Store Museum in Hillside; Deacon Andrew Hetfield House in Mountainside; The Saltbox Museum in New Providence, and Drake House Museum in Plainfield.
Other museums featured are Merchants and Drovers Tavern in Rahway; Abraham Clark House in Roselle; the Roselle Park Museum in Roselle Park; Osborn Cannonball House in Scotch Plains; The Cannon Ball House in
Springfield; Carter House, The ReevesReed Arboretum and Twin Maples in Summit; Caldwell Parsonage and Liberty Hall in Union, and MillerCory House Museum in Westfield.
For a copy of the Heritage Festival booklet with photographs, site descriptions and a map, please write to the Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, 633 Pearl Street, Elizabeth, 07202 or call (908) 5582550 between the hours of 8: 30 a. m. to 4: 30 p. m. New Jersey Relay users should call (800) 8527899.
Copies of the suggested driving routes are also available.
Fall Programs Announced At County Planetarium
MOUNTAINSIDE — The planetarium at Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside has a new lineup for the fall months.
Two public planetarium shows will be offered on Sundays at 2 p. m. and 3: 30 p. m. Each program includes a look at the current night sky. Planetarium shows are appropriate for ages 6 to adult. A variety of shows have also been designed for younger children, ages 4 to 6 who are accompanied by an adult. Admission is a nominal fee and on a firstcome, firstserved basis.
“Night Out With the Stars” is a series of planetarium programs held once a month from September to December for families with children ages 6 and up. The first program, entitled Harvest Moon, will be held on Thursday, September 23, at 7: 30 p. m. The programs will start inside the planetarium and be followed by an evening viewing session under the stars to acquaint young and old alike with the night sky. Wear warm clothing and being binoculars or telescope and a blanket or lawn chair. Preregistration is required and the fee is $4 per person.
“Afterschool Skywatchers” is a workshop series for children in first and second grade. The series will be presented on alternate Wednesdays from 3: 30 to 4: 45 p. m. beginning October 6. These classes are designed to give children an introduction to planetarium basics and astronomy. Registration is required and there is an $8 fee per child for each class.
For a complete fall brochure, which includes listings of all workshops for children and families, planetarium show descriptions and upcoming events, please call or visit the Trailside Nature and Science Center, 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside, (908) 7893670.
Plans for Fanny Wood Day To Be Mailed to Residents
FANWOOD — Preparations for the 4th Annual Fanny Wood Day Street Festival on Sunday, September 26, are nearing completion.
The Fanwood Millennium Clock is ready to be unveiled and festival organizers are putting the finishing touches on their plans for this year’s community celebration.
Fanwood residents will soon receive in the mail a schedule of events and other information about the festival and sponsors. The Fanny Wood Day Committee, with the assistance of Mike Buck and the staff at the Fanwood A& P, prepared the flyer to inform Fanwoodians about the Borough’s history and the people who helped make this year’s festival possible.
Some of the events planned for the day include: the dedication of the new landmark timepiece at the corner of Martine and South Avenues at 2 p. m.; a flagraising ceremony conducted by local members of the ROTC; the Second Annual “Little Miss Fanny Wood” Contest for young girls at 2: 30 p. m., a pie baking contest; an antique car show at the northside train station; a special display for the Battleship New Jersey; and “Volunteer Fair” to promote membership in civicminded orga nizations and committees in need of
volunteers. In addition to the exhibits and displays at the festival, pony rides, a petting zoo, moonwalk balloon animators and hayrides will be available for children. Music will be provided by disc jockey. Nick, and the intersection of Martine and South Avenues will be closed to automobile traffic to permit dancing in the streets from noon until 5 p. m.
Vendor spaces for crafters are still available, with a reserved spot costing $75 for a 10foot by 10foot space. For more information, please call Neal Schembre at (908) 3226066.
Contestants interested in the Little Miss Fanny Wood Contests may call Helen Ling at Enchantments at (908) 3226161 to participate.
Pie bakers may call Trish Scarlatta at the Florida Fruit Shoppe at (908) 3227606 for information about the piebaking contest.
Organizations and individuals interested in the Volunteer Fair may call (908) 3179724.
The antique car show will be sponsored by the Cougar Club of New Jersey. Car buffs may call Don Wussler at (908) 8891709.
In the event of rain, the festival will be on Sunday, October 3.
Scotch Plains StreetFest ’99 Slated for Towne Centre
SCOTCH PLAINS — A variety of events and activities have been planned in Scotch Plains Towne Centre as part of Scotch Plains Day/ StreetFest 99 on Saturday, October 2.
The activities will be organized by the Scotch Plains Business & Professional Association (SPBPA), the Parks & Recreation Commission, the Health Department and the Lion’s Club.
Ray Pardon, SPBPA President, said “Scotch Plains Day/ StreetFest ‘99 is intended to be a celebration to bring together and recognize the spirit of the entire community of Scotch Plains.”
There will be a poster and essay contest for elementary school children. The theme is “What Scotch Plains Means To Me.” For more information on the contest, please call the Recreation Department at (908) 3226700. Winners will be announced on Scotch Plains Day.
The annual USA Track and Field certified 5mile road race throughout town will begin at 9 a. m.. Registration is $12 prior to Saturday, September 25, and $15 thereafter. Registration on the day of the race will begin at 7: 30am. Medals will be awarded and all participants will receive a tshirt donated by the SPBPA and its member sponsors.
For more information on the race, please call the Parks and Recreation Department at (908) 3226700, Extension No. 222.
Race winners will receive their medals at 10 a. m. at the Gazebo, followed by the Civic Awards ceremonies honoring outstanding citizens, with a performance by the Scotch PlainsFanwood High School Marching Band.
The health fair will be held from 8 a. m. to noon in the Municipal Building. Rabies shots for dogs and cats will also be available. Vision, hearing, dental, flu shots and blood pressure screening will be provided.
The senior citizen bus will be available to transport any senior citizens to the health fair. The Lion’s Club has also made their Eye Mobile available for the event. For more information, please call the Health Department at (908) 3226700.
The Lion’s Club will hold its annual Giant Flea Market throughout the day in the Municipal Parking Lot on Park Avenue starting at 8 am. More then 100 vendors are expected to participate. For more information on the Giant Flea Market, please call Norm Bendel at (908) 3221663.
Sidewalk sales will be held throughout Towne Centre as well as musical entertainment on the Village Green featuring a disc jockey. In addition, there will be pony rides, a petting zoo and a dance exhibition by The Moderne Academie of Fine Arts. The weekly Farmers Market, also organized by the SPBPA, will be held as usual.
Township Posts Details For Limb, Brush PickUp
SCOTCH PLAINS – Scotch Plains will hold a tree limb and brush pickup program starting on Monday September 20, at 7 a. m. Since the Department of Public Works (DPW) will be going through the Township once, all tree debris must be placed at curbside by this date.
Only tree limbs and shrub parts will be picked up. Grass, weeds, leaves, stumps and other materials will not be picked up.
The program will be conducted in the same manner as leaf collection. The DPW will be working on the north side and south side simultaneously.
The material will be picked up in the same manner as the residential cleanup program in June. Tree parts must be placed in bundles not to exceed 50 pounds and 4 feet in length. This allows us faster pick up of the material.
Bundles must not be tied with metal wire of any type. In case of inclement weather, pickup will be temporarily suspended, but service will be resumed as quickly as possible.
McKinley School PTO To Conduct Plant Sale
The ParentTeacher Organization of McKinley Elementary School in Westfield will hold its annual flower and bulb sale on Thursday, September 23, from 8: 30 a. m. to 3: 30 p. m. at the school. McKinley Elementary is located at 500 First Avenue.
The sale will feature many kinds of bulbs, gourds, Indian corn and a selection of mums.
Junior Woman’s Club To Hold Garage Sale
FANWOOD – The Fanwood Junior Woman’s Club will hold a garage sale this Saturday, September 18, from 8 a. m. to 2 p. m. at 75 Paterson Road in Fanwood. The rain date for the event will be Sunday, September 19.
Children’s clothing and toys, furniture and household goods are some of the items that will be sold.
All proceeds from this sale will benefit local charities. The Fanwood Junior Woman’s Club is part of the National Organization of Woman’s Clubs dedicated to serving communities throughout the United States.
Area Schools Set Yom Kippur Closing
Westfield, Scotch PlainsFanwood and Mountainside public schools will be closed on Monday, September 20, in observance of Yom Kippur.
In addition, the Westfield Board of Education will meet on Tuesday, September 21, at 8 p. m. at 302 Elm Street in Westfield.
Agendas will be available at the Westfield Board Secretary Office on Monday, September 20.