Old & New county jail Discussion: Costs mounting
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO November 19, 2013 With almost $100,000 spent just this past year on repairs at the county jail, Public Works Commissioner Ed McAndrew asked legislators Thursday how they want to proceed on a century-old building they may replace in the next decade.
“We have been putting off at this point a number of large projects,” he said, including “paper-thin” cast iron pipes, a deteriorating retaining wall, aging phone and electric lines, and a troublesome elevator, fire alarm and heating/cooling system.
Put that all into one repair package, and it could cost “$4-$6 million easily ... and possibly more when we start tearing into things,” said McAndrew.
Of course, it will take at least two years to build a new jail, and legislators aren’t all sold on the existing $80 million proposal.
“So how much can we put off ... for 24 months?” wondered Legislator Kitty Vetter.
“We have been for 20 years,” replied Jail Administrator Hal Smith, obviously frustrated with the decades-long lack of commitment to a new facility.
McAndrew said his crews continue to repair items as they fail, but he wondered how much more money the county wants to pour into a jail it will ultimately replace.
With the boarding-out of excess prisoners now costing the county upwards of $100,000 a month, Acting County Manager Josh Potosek said it makes sense to move ahead with a new jail.
“You’re almost getting to the point where… you’d probably see a savings… to build vs. not to build,” he explained. “Financially, it makes sense to seriously start getting bid documents done.”
The $80 million design with LaBella Associates is 90 percent complete, said Legislator Kathy LaBuda, but several of her colleagues are interested in a proposal from Goldberg Group Architects that is estimated to be half that cost.
“The original plan, as far as I’m concerned, is off the table,” said Legislator Cindy Gieger.
But Goldberg’s proposal is not yet firmly in hand. Company reps met with Smith and County Treasurer Ira Cohen (who invited them to submit a proposal) last week, looking at the existing 40 acres the county bought in Monticello for the new jail.
Goldberg officials are expected to have a detailed report and design to the county in the next month.
At the same time, per Legislator Cora Edwards’ request, legislators will be presented with a comprehensive list of options with the jail going forward.
Legislator Gene Benson wants that to include a look at the former Woodbourne Annex of the state’s Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, which (unlike the Monticello property) has water, sewer and buildings on site.
“Does anybody besides Gene want to build the jail in Woodbourne?” asked an exasperated LaBuda, to protests from Benson.
“Unless Woodbourne becomes the county seat, it’s got to stay in Monticello,” Legislator Alan Sorensen replied, agreeing with Smith that the bulk of inmates are routinely transported to courts in the Monticello area.
“Sitewise… it is a very wise decision,” affirmed one of the county’s energy-efficiency consultants, Stephen Stuart, referring to the decreased fuel costs inherent in a Monticello location.
However, Monticello resident Tom Manza, who lives down the road from the proposed new jail site, urged legislators to do their due diligence.
“I’d like to see if they could go to a site like Woodbourne and fit it there,” he told them Thursday, “… to give us a choice.
“I know at the end of the day this board will make the right choice if it’s all put in front of you.”