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THE CURRENT COUNTY Jail is starting to show its age.

Jail proposals range $73 - $81 millions

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 25, 2008 — Yesterday’s Public Works Committee meeting of the County Legislature featured only slightly better news than legislators had heard the week prior.
Representatives of LaBella Associates, a Rochester consulting firm, tried to scale down the state-mandated county jail per legislators’ requests, but the target of a $60-$70 million construction total could not be reached.
However, the three options they presented were all less than the $105 million that had been projected last week.
“What’s the lowest we can go that the commission would allow us to do?” explained LaBella’s Mark Kukuvka, referencing the number of beds and the state Commission on Corrections, which must sign off on any jail plan.
With an average daily inmate population at the current 100-year-old jail hovering around 200, LaBella staff calculated three different scenarios – all without factoring in local casinos, the presence of which is looking fairly remote these days.
The least expensive option came in between $73 and $78 million, and to reach that figure, consultants had to cut out the sheriff’s quarters, the supply warehouse, 48 housing cells, 12 future double cells, 30 “weekender” cells (for short-term stays), and 15 special management cells. Kukuvka estimated that would meet the county’s growing jail needs only until 2020.
The next least expensive option came in between $76 and $81 million, cutting out the sheriff’s space, the warehouse and 60 single and double housing cells. It was estimated that configuration would reach its maximum capacity by 2024.
The third option tallied $83-$88 million, deleting only the sheriff’s space and the warehouse and offering capacity through 2030 at least.
Legislators liked the numbers only in that they were lower than the $105 million figure.
“If our population is 75,000 and our bargain-basement jail is $75 million, that’s $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Sullivan County,” said District 8 Legislator Ron Hiatt, in whose district the current (and likely future) jail sits. “That’s just oppressive. I mean, I’m ready to have the Boston Tea Party! There must be some other way . . . than burdening our great-grandchildren with the debt for something that will last us 15 years!”
Legislators, the consultants and sheriff’s deputies briefly discussed various alternatives to incarceration, from private prisons to home arrest situations, but several attendees pointed out that the lowest-priced jail still wouldn’t necessarily be the best, since supplies would still need to be shipped somewhere and the Sheriff’s Office is in desperate need of new or rehabbed quarters.
Legislature Chair and District 4 Legislator Jonathan Rouis remarked that action needs to be taken at the state level.
“The state needs to step in and offer some assistance,” he told the crowd. “. . . That message has to be carried loud and clear to our state folks.”
It will be next week, when several legislators plan to attend the NYS Association of Counties (NYSAC) conference in Albany.
But, asked District 2 Legislator and Public Works Committee Chair Kathy LaBuda, “has the state ever given counties more money for jails?”
“No,” replied Kukuvka.
So in the meantime, said Sal LaBella (founder of LaBella and present at yesterday’s meeting), “what we want to do is wring out of this the things that are not really needed.”

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