The price tag continues to make Sullivan County legislators gasp, but the county is moving closer to breaking ground on a $74 million jail. Design firm LaBella unveiled preliminary drawings to county lawmakers Thursday. The county also held a public hearing, as required for the environmental review of the Mapes property, where the jail will likely be built on a 40-acre parcel at Exit 104 on Old Route 17 just outside of Monticello. The county is in negotiations to buy the property.“We hope to break ground on this in January 2010,” said architect Mark Kukuvka.
The project has been whittled down from the original jail concept, which might have cost $100 million-$110 million and included 400 beds and offices for the sheriff’s office.
The county got preliminary approval from the Commission of Corrections to build a smaller jail, which could be increased in size in phases. Ultimately, the county will build new offices and facilities for the sheriff’s office in a later phase.
But in spite of the cutbacks, legislators remained worried about the hefty price and are urging LaBella to continue negotiations with the state to bring down the cost.
“I’m a little dismayed (the cost-cutting) didn’t drop those numbers down,” said Legislator Dave Sager.
Kukuvka said he doesn’t believe the cost can be significantly reduced.
For example, some sections of the jail, such as the kitchen and staff areas, are going to be designed to handle a larger facility. The plan is to build a jail with 256 beds as a base figure, and add 48-bed pods as needed.
Sheriff Mike Schiff said the 256-bed number is a good starting figure.
Schiff said there would be a public outcry if the county opened a $74 million jail, and then was forced to pay $80 and up per day to house some inmates in another facility.
“If we end up paying on both ends, that is not explainable to the public,” Schiff said.