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Forty million dollars for new jail? With pressure from Albany jail talk resumes

By Fritz Mayer
September 25, 2013

With a number of lawmakers convinced that Sullivan County taxpayers can’t afford an $80 million new jail, county officials have moved to get a second opinion. The $80 million plan came from LaBella Associates.Now a company called Goldberg Group Architects (GGA) will provide the county with a “concept plan” for a new jail.

That information was passed on by the county attorney, Sam Yasgur, at a meeting at the government center on September 11. He said GGA will “see if they can design a facility that will save substantial dollars; they have to design it so that it meets with the commission of corrections in Albany.” He added that they will also determine what uses, if any, the existing 102-year-old jail can be put to.

In a related development, county treasurer Ira Cohen, who is running unopposed for another term, sent an email to residents on September 20 saying, “because of poor leadership in the county government center, to date, the county has paid (and wasted) millions to LaBella for initial work on the prospective new jail with little to show for it.” He added some good news saying, “GGA is now estimating it could build a 300+-bed facility on that already acquired property off Route 17’s Exit 104 in Monticello for as little as $40 million, which is a much cheaper (half the $80 million) price to build a new jail.”

One question that has yet to be answered is where the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Road Patrol and Office will be located when the new jail is built. Under the original plan, the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies such as the probation department were to be located at the new jail. But the La Bella plan for that would have cost $120 million. After those entities were dropped from the plan the price dropped to $80 million, but a decision about the location of the sheriff’s patrol was never made.

At the meeting on September 11, legislator Alan Sorenson said that county lawmakers should consider using a county-owned building situated behind the Apollo Plaza, a third of which is now being used to house the county’s new voting machines, which unlike the old lever machines, require housing in a climate-controlled building.

But the county has agreed to sell that building to developer Butch Resnick as part of the deal for him to develop a supermarket on the site. Sorenson said because of the attributes of the site, the deal with Resnick should be renegotiated.