Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Democrat File Photo

Some of the fixtures in the 1909 section of the County Jail are so old they can no longer be replaced. Here, Sheriff’s Deputy Corrections Officer Irving Rumble turns the master control wheel that operates the cell doors in B Block, used for incoming inmates who typically spend up to five days there.

Clock ticking on county jail

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 30, 2010 — When it comes to the proposed replacement of the Sullivan County Jail, “time is a key factor,” said Legislator Leni Binder.
She was speaking at a meeting of the Legislature’s Labor Subcommittee on Thursday, where County Manager David Fanslau announced he’s working on a final report about the county’s investigations to date on jail options.
Though Fanslau said yesterday that won’t likely include recommendations, it will detail conversations he and other officials have had with Delaware, Ulster and Orange politicians and jail administrators, along with the state.
The county, said Undersheriff Eric Chaboty yesterday, has been considering everything from the Apollo Mall to the Sullivan Correctional Facility Annex to a regionalized approach.
Every option continues to provide significant advantages and disadvantages, and with the NYS Commission of Correction threatening to shut down more of the century-old jail in Monticello, legislators are stepping up efforts to figure out the “right” choice.
“They [the state] are looking to shut down more cells,” acknowledged Chaboty. “... You’re dealing with a regulatory agency that doesn’t want to hear excuses anymore.”
He’s of the mind that the county should have begun construction of a new jail 20 years ago. (It was discussed then but never built.) The last mortgage payment, he explained, would have been due this year on what would have been a $25-$30 million project.
Instead, Chaboty said, the county is currently stuck with a decrepit jail that he feels cannot be renovated to the state’s (or county’s) satisfaction.
“I don’t think the Commission of Correction is interested in rehabbing the old jail, so we may be forced to build a new jail,” agreed Legislator David Sager, who chairs the Legislature’s Public Works Committee and thus is overseeing the exploration of options.
His trip last week to the Delaware County Jail in Delhi, which is less than half the size Sullivan County is considering and was built six years ago for $23 million, gave him hope that even a full buildout of a new jail might not hit the $70-$80 million mark many officials have estimated.
The now-closed Sullivan Annex in Fallsburg offers a chance to avoid building a completely new facility, but as Chaboty told Labor Subcommittee members on Thursday, “the site really needs extensive investigation.”
Though supported by Binder and Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante, the site would still require some new construction.
“The structure of the annex is not really suitable for the needs of the county jail,” Fanslau explained.
And a transfer of the site from the state to the county would probably have to be negotiated at the governor’s level – and officials aren’t sure if they’d get it for free or at fair market value.
Once these answers are gained, Fanslau said he expects to offer recommendations on the annex and other options in a few months.
The county already has title to a 50-acre parcel off Route 17’s Exit 104 in Monticello, though it’s in arbitration with the original property owners to determine a fair purchase price beyond the $1,076,214.52 (appraised value only) it paid in November.
That site remains the Sheriff’s Office’s pick, but neighbors have decried it, and legislators remain uncertain.
“I have absolutely no preference at all,” said Sager, who’s more concerned about the long-term manpower impacts. “I think the numbers will speak for themselves.”
He is, however, fairly certain regionalization is “a moot point,” as Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties all now have new jails.
Boarding-out of prisoners, which Chaboty estimated will end up being more expensive in the long run than building a new jail, will likely become more the norm, especially with the state now bearing down on Sullivan County.
Indeed, 13 prisoners were shipped out of the county last week, said Fanslau, costing over $200 a day.
The clock continues to tick loudly in officials’ ears, with Fanslau confirming to legislators that even if they agreed on a choice today, jail construction would still take six months to bid out before it could begin – and the county would have to schedule it for the warmer months.
“So what is your goal date to start this?” Labor Subcommittee member Cindy Garlinghouse asked.
“1988,” quipped Legislator Kathy LaBuda.

top of page  |  home  |  archives