Redesign to cost half
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO September 17, 2013 While legislators are planning trips to the Delaware County Jail and the former Woodbourne Annex of the Sullivan Correctional Facility, they’re also waiting for a Missouri company to submit a potential redesign of the proposed new Sullivan County Jail.
They discussed it all during Thursday’s Public Works Committee meeting, where Legislator Kathy LaBuda said of the current century-old jail in Monticello: “It is a dungeon.”
The state agrees and has been pressuring the county to build a new jail, but legislators have been reluctant to proceed with what has been estimated to be an $80 million construction project.
“Nobody wants to build an $80 million jail, and we’re trying to make this as painless as possible,” acknowledged LaBuda.
County Treasurer Ira Cohen thinks he may have a less painful solution, in the form of St. Joseph, Missouri-based Goldberg Group Architects (GGA).
Turned on to GGA by a Herkimer County legislator, Cohen contacted them and arranged for a brief presentation to members of the Jail Review Committee, which meets in private.
GGA estimated it could build a 48,400-square-foot, 128-bed facility on the already-acquired property off Route 17’s Exit 104 in Monticello for as little as $40 million.
Of course, that’s half the beds currently proposed, but it includes 12,000 square feet for the Sheriff’s Office, which had been cut from the current plan.
After some initial resistance, Cohen won approval from fellow review committee members to pay GGA $2,500 to create a plan it can show to the state Commission of Correction (CoC), which has the final say on all county jail designs in the state.
Believing prior designer LaBella Associates’ figures to be inaccurate, he thinks the $1.9 million spent to date designing a new jail may be recouped under GGA’s supervision.
“With a fresh look, maybe we’ll save money and make up what we lost,” Cohen told the Democrat.
He said GGA has built more than 200 jails nationwide.
“They haven’t yet built one in New York State, but the presentation they made indicates to me they’re professional and savvy,” he added, calling their presentation “compelling.”
GGA is expected to head to Albany soon and return to the county with a report in about a month, Cohen said. If the county is not satisfied, it’s not obligated to proceed further.
“I have a great deal of confidence he’s going to come back with an acceptable proposal,” Cohen affirmed. “What’s the harm? Let him submit a proposal.”
In the meantime, legislators are planning to view the Delaware County Jail which is only a few years old and is similar to what Sullivan County is contemplating and then to revisit the former Woodbourne Annex, which was abandoned by the state-run Sullivan Correctional Facility last decade.
Legislator Gene Benson has been a proponent of the Woodbourne site, considering the existing infrastructure and prior use as a prison.
Transportation costs might be higher, but contrary to popular belief, the CoC has not denied the potential use of that facility as a county jail.
“They said they’d have to see full plans before making any determination,” Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson explained Thursday.
Ending inmate shipouts?
The old jail has had a variety of cells shut down by the state, meaning that currently 38 inmates are farmed out to other jails upstate and down.
A potential solution to that expensive problem was offered Thursday by the Probation Department, which told legislators that if it had more personnel to administer the Pre-Trial Release and Alternatives to Incarceration programs, it could place at least 44 existing inmates in housing other than the jail.
Legislators indicated they’d consider adding staff in the 2014 budget.
Whither goest the road patrol?
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Patrol Division has been dealing with water and sanitation issues at its current headquarters on Bushnell Avenue in Monticello.
The building is older than the jail and has long been considered insufficient for the Sheriff’s Office’s needs.
Woodbourne was briefly mentioned as a possible relocation spot, but legislators spent more time Thursday talking about an old plan to move the division to the former BOCES building on Plaza Drive, near the Apollo Plaza. It currently houses voting machines.
However, that 10,000-square-foot structure is expected to be part of the deal with Butch Resnick to rehab the Apollo. A letter of intent signed between him and the county indicates he’ll acquire that property and eventually lease the building back to the county, if it still wishes to use it.
Changing the terms of the deal now would require new negotiations, said officials.
“I’m not going back and renegotiating anything,” vowed Legislator Kathy LaBuda.
While Resnick might welcome a renovated building, Legislator Ira Steingart affirmed it doesn’t make sense for the county to spend money on a structure it might soon no longer own.
So it seems likely, for now, that legislators will await GGA’s jail redesign proposal, which includes space for the Sheriff’s Office.