County seeks state OK for jail modifications
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislators on Thursday got a glimpse of proposed design changes in the new county jail that they hope will get the OK from the NYS Commission on Corrections (COC).
Representatives of the county’s contracted design firm, LaBella Associates, told legislators that the jail’s overall square footage had been reduced from 169,000 to 139,000.
A second floor had been eliminated, as well as several dozen beds. The jail now has a design capacity of 256 inmates, or 304 with double-bedding, all inside cells that have been reduced by 20 square feet apiece.
The kitchen was also changed from a conventional version to a cook-chill type, which would use pre-cooked food shipped in from an upstate facility and reheated on site.
No exact cost savings were cited for a project estimated to tally around $80 million, and the Sheriff’s Office had yet to review the plans in depth.
But legislators were hoping that a trip to Albany today would convince the COC that these changes are permissible and warranted.
The site on Old Route 17 in Monticello, approved by COC and about to be bought by the county, remains controversial, with neighbor Tom Manza attending Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting to once again air concerns.
“Obviously, this is a huge tax burden the way it sits, and it’s going to be extremely unpopular,” Manza observed.
But legislators said they’ve looked at every other option, and the COC has struck down all other preferred siting alternatives.
County Attorney Sam Yasgur added that the county is currently facing several federal lawsuits from inmates alleging the conditions in the current 100-year-old jail are violations of their rights not to mention the working conditions for deputies.
As for rehabbing the existing jail in downtown Monticello, Legislature Chair Jonathan Rouis said it would cost much more than a few million dollars in repairs.
“Our facility doesn’t need to be fixed,” he told Manza. “It needs to be leveled and rebuilt.”
Legislator Jodi Goodman added that residents were not being kept out of the loop, despite concerns to the contrary regarding how the jail was sited and neighbors notified.
“We agree that maybe we should have knocked on your doors,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean we were hiding anything.”
To prove that point, she invited Manza and his neighbors to a local meeting the county hopes to have sometime in the near future with the leadership of the COC.