County watching jail dollars

MARK GUTMAN/DAILY NEWSIn the current financial situation, county leaders said this week they want to spend as little as they can on the aging jail on West Main Street.

BATAVIA — The county officials at this week’s Public Service Committee meeting don’t want to put any more money than necessary into the jail they have now.

Legislator Gary Maha said the county should spend the minimum it has to on the facility.

“The Commission (of Corrections), I think, will go along if they know you’re moving forward on a new jail. Even if it’s at a snail’s pace, I think they’ll go along with you,” he said.

Legislator Marianne Clattenburg agreed.

“We can’t have a building that’s dangerous. It has to be safe,” Clattenburg said. Other than meeting high-priority needs in the existing facility, the county should put money toward a new jail if it can.

Jail Superintendent William Zipfel said the high priority happens when something breaks down and has to be fixed immediately, especially with the jail operating all the time.

“Any lack of services to the inmates requires reporting to the commission,” he said. “If anything went down for 24 hours or more, we’d be faced with housing inmates out to another county. Depending on what it (the problem) was, it could be all of the inmates. That’s when it becomes a high priority.”

Clattenburg said there should be a Committee of the Whole meeting to allow all legislators to weigh in on the direction the county should take.

“I don’t want to spend money we don’t have when we need it to build a new jail,” she said.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers said the new jail is completely designed.

“As far as the engineer and the architects, they’ve completed 100 percent design work,” he said. “We’re there for a four-pod, 184-bed jail. Now it’s just a matter of, when the dust settles, if that’s going to be what we’re moving forward with.”

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, updated the committee on what it might cost to keep the current jail running for the next three to five years.

“We have an existing facility that we’ve been basically duct-taping and bale-and-twining together for the last couple of years with the expectation we’d have a new facility in its place,” Hens said.

Hens said he went through the county’s facility maintenance system and ran a report on the jail and looked at a three- to five-year window.

“It kicked back a report that’s got a number of items on it ... It identified about $3.5 million worth of projects and things that are basically in a canned schedule or work for the next five years,” he said.

Hens said he looked at some of the more critical needs from a life-safety standpoint.

“HVAC, primarily, is the biggest item and then some of our fire protection and even some of our plumbing needs,” he said. “The building, obviously, is over 40 years old. The HVAC system is getting pretty aged. The sanitary system, the plumbing, sinks, the controls for the sinks, the drainage that’s in the crawl space in the walls behind the cells, a lot of it’s leaking and needs to be replaced. We’ve already started replacing large pieces of that over the last couple of years. If we’re going to hold onto this facility for a couple of more years, there’s definitely some costs that we’re going to have to put into this building to hold it together. “We’ve got an aged sprinkler system, some heads and valves and controls that need to be upgraded,” Hens said. “Even some stuff from the exterior of the building ... there’s some leaky windows. There’s a lot of brick that needs to be repointed.

“The high-priority stuff, I’ve got it estimated at $1.1 million. I’ve applied a 30-percent increase in cost to that based on prevailing wage,” he said.

Hens said the cost for five years would be about $1.5 million.

“This is just looking at the rear portion of the building. This doesn’t consider Genesee Justice and the front end of the building, which has its own issues and problems,” he said.

Sheriff William Sheron Jr. said his concern about a prolonged use of the current jail is having to make major renovations within the interior that would be costly.

“The deal with the female population, to expand our medical, to comply with the compliance for the classification issues ... to provide the programs they want. What that would entail, at this point, I’m just estimating that it would be millions of dollars to do that.”

Hens said, “To put the new jail on pause definitely saves big money in terms of construction costs, but there’s always an equal and opposite reaction in terms of having the existing jail that we need to maintain through that period of time.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1