CATSKILL — A wrecking ball might be heading for the Greene County Jail in the future.
Demolishing the old jail would eliminate one of three options long debated by officials. Building a new jail, sharing a jail with Columbia County and renovating the old jail have been on the county’s drawing board for months.
The Greene County Legislature is talking about demolishing the Bridge Street jail, which closed April 20 for safety reasons, and move the suspect-booking area to Coxsackie, Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said. He declined to reveal the location because it has to be approved by the state Commission of Correction.
“They have prerequisites — they don’t want it in a mall, they don’t want people to be handcuffed outside of a retail center,” Groden said.
The front wall of the jail doubles as the rear wall of the Sheriff’s Office and lawmakers are concerned that the office will not be saved when the jail is demolished, Groden said.
The engineering firm Barton & Loguidice visited Aug. 3 and again on Monday to do an asbestos evaluation of the jail to determine how it will be destroyed.
“I’m going to assume due to the age of the facility, we’re not going to want to go in to strip the asbestos,” Groden said. “It’ll probably be demoed all at once.”
Results from the evaluation are due back sometime in September or October and will be discussed at a Public Safety Committee meeting. From there lawmakers will issue bid specifications for contractors. No date has been chosen to demolish the jail as of Tuesday.
“Our feeling is once we’ve been advised we have an unsafe structure, we’re going to tear it down,” Groden said.
It will cost $500,000 to bring the building down because of the jail’s size and tight location on a hill, Groden said.
“It’s not just your average strip plaza made with aluminum and drywall,” he said. “We have tight quarters.”
Renting a temporary space for booking would cost between $3,500 and $4,500 a month, far less than the $200,000 it would take to replace water and sewer lines and other utilities such as gas, electric and telecommunications, Groden said.
“A temporary lease like this is a whole lot cheaper than running new utilities to this stand-alone block of cells,” the county administrator said. “The math is pretty easy.”
Negotiations are underway with the owners of the space the county hopes to lease, Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley said.
The old jail should be demolished sooner rather than later, Seeley said.
“If it was up to me, yesterday would have been a good day,” Seeley said. “As soon as this place is down the better off we’ll be.”
The existing Sheriff’s Office has no health risks but is an old building that isn’t handicapped accessible and has no central air conditioning, Groden said. The Civil Administration office will be moved to the Greene County Office Building at 411 Main St.
Seeley met an elderly couple Tuesday who came in for a pistol permit. They complained to him about the Sheriff’s Office lacking a ramp and wondered why a new jail hasn’t been built.
“They’re upset because they’re taking the chance of getting hurt,” Seeley said.
Legislator William Lawrence, R-Cairo, hopes this latest effort will help push a decision on the bonding of a new jail, he said, adding corrections officers have been working non-stop transporting newly booked inmates to the Columbia and Ulster County jails and taking inmates to court dates.
“We’ve been stalling and talking about it, but we’ve got nothing to show and it’s just costing us more and more money,” Lawrence said. “We’re running a 24-hour-a-day processing operation with the COs, so they’re working all the time.”
Legislator Lori Torgersen, D-Windham, isn’t aware of any decision to demolish the existing jail but there has been discussion among legislators about what to do with it, she said.
“If the business of criminal justice continues, we still have to have a place to book them,” Torgersen said. “We have to see what the other options are.”
The best choice for now is to explore all options on what to do with the jail and what the realistic cost options are, Torgersen said.
“The cost to make the existing facility safe and sustainable is probably going to outweigh going somewhere else,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be hearing some options sooner or later.”
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