DESIGN FIRM LABELLA Associates provided this rendering of the proposed new county jail to legislators on Thursday. This view is southward, looking toward Old Route 17 (upper right) and Route 17s Exit 104 near Monticello. The complex would be almost completely obscured by a cliff that abuts Old Route 17.
Jail plans take shape
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Even with Route 17’s Exit 104 looking more and more like the future neighbor of the new Sullivan County Jail, legislators remain unhappy about the price tag.
Architect Mark Kukuvka of the design firm LaBella Associates told county leaders Thursday that the estimated cost currently comes in just under $74 million.
Though that’s significantly less than the $110 million estimated last year, the new number did not go over well.
“I still am very uncomfortable with the $73.8 million figure,” remarked Legislator Kathy LaBuda, one of the Legislature’s leaders in the quest for a replacement to the century-old county jail. “We’re putting more money into our jails than our schools.”
“I’m a little frustrated by the numbers that were presented,” added Legislator David Sager. “I’m honestly surprised [the revamped design] doesn’t drop the costs more.”
County Treasurer Ira Cohen reminded the crowd that he had warned of affordability concerns in the face of other high debt issues like the landfill, but he noted that the state Commission on Corrections mandates a facility with a minimum of 256 beds.
And that’s just what the new jail is at, about 50 beds higher than the current jail can accommodate.
An additional housing pod (up to four can be added) would increase bed capacity to 304 but cost another $5 million, said Kukuvka.
While administrative and intake offices would be located within the facility, it would not have room for the Sheriff’s Office or any other public safety quarters.
There would be room, however, for expansion. If negotiations with the landowners are successful, the county will soon own a 50-acre parcel along Old Route 17 just west of Exit 104 (Route 17B).
The cleared half of the property would become home to the 28-foot-tall jail, obscured from nearby roads and neighbors by a rock cut created from the construction of Route 17 50 years ago.
While another trip to visit Commission on Corrections officials is due in the near future to try to reduce costs further, the design will be finalized in the coming months. Kukuvka hopes to bid out the project this November, with construction beginning next year and finishing in early 2012.
Sheriff Michael Schiff cautioned legislators to ensure that the county does not incur huge construction costs only to discover it still needs to ship out prisoners to other counties’ jails.
“That should be the one thing we don’t want to fall into,” he urged. “... It’s simply not explainable [to taxpayers].”.