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Sullivan jail redesign: $440,000

By Fritz Mayer
July 23, 2014

MONTICELLO, NY — A sharply divided Sullivan County legislature deliberated giving LaBella Associates an additional $440,000 for another redesign of the proposed new county jail.

For some of the legislators, the price tag is still the major issue. Legislator Cora Edwards said she received the figures for a jail LaBella built in Tennessee. She said, “Factoring in that it’s a smaller jail, different labor laws, different union costs, taking all that into consideration that jail would have been about $25 million; the jail Goldberg Group Architects was looking at would have been $34 million; the jail that LaBella has presented to us, the design, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $54 and $64 million.”

She said using metal would be cheaper but wouldn’t last as long as traditional construction material.

Sheriff Mike Schiff said metal was still “on the table,” but he wanted to visit some metal jails that had been built and research that more.

Schiff said the $440,000 would go to LaBella to finalize the plans and at the same time make changes to try to bring down the cost.

Edwards also expressed frustration that the design is being planned for 256 beds, but with the core of the building large enough to handle an expansion to 500 beds, and wondered where that figure had come from and if it was necessary.

Schiff said if it becomes necessary to expand the jail at some point in the future, it would be far less expensive if an adequate core were already in place.

County treasurer Ira Cohen said, “LaBella is saying they need extra money for the redesign, but a lot of the designs were the result of estimates that they or the subcontractors came up with, which proved to be inaccurate or fallacious—like a 450-bed jail. So it seems to me that they should do whatever design we need until we come to an agreement about what this jail is going to look like without having to pay them additional money.”

The comment did not elicit a direct response.

Legislator Kathy LaBuda, who has worked longest on the jail issue, said, “It’s costing us more money to maintain this jail than to build a new jail. It cost us $1.4 million over the last three years just to outboard inmates. That does not include the transportation costs or the overtime. There’s a $2 million savings the year we open the new jail because of the number of corrections officers we’ll need.” She warned that the Commission of Corrections could visit the jail again, as it did in 2010, and shut down the jail, leaving 120 employees without jobs.

She said the project would not be bonded until 2016 or 2017.