CATSKILL — Demolition of the former Greene County Jail on Bridge Street in Catskill will have no adverse impacts on the environment, Greene County lawmakers agreed Monday, but the Legislature has to deal with lead and asbestos in the jail building and the historic effects of the project.
The Legislature issued a negative declaration based on the state environmental review of the demolition project.
But the environmental review indicated that the demolition is expected to have moderate to large historical impacts.
During a special Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday night, Deputy Greene County Administrator Warren Hart went over the extensive review with the board.
The county has reserved $500,000 for the demolition of the former sheriff’s office and jail complex, located at 80 Bridge St. in the village. The historic carriage house will remain intact. Decisions must be made on how the county wants to deal with the lead and asbestos inside the jail and if any historic materials such as the Ohio sandstone that makes up the facade of the jail should be salvaged, Hart said.
Based on the environmental review, the demolition will have moderate to large historic impacts, Hart said.
“Both the jail and the sheriff’s office are part of the Eastside Historic District,” Hart said.
The State Historic Preservation Office asked the county to come up with “prudent and feasible” alternatives to demolition, Hart said.
The county hired the engineering firm Barton & Loguidice of Albany to evaluate the current building conditions and alternative uses.
The county also explored whether there were potential buyers interested in the property, Hart said.
Barton & Loguidice drafted estimates on three different uses for the property, Hart said.
To renovate the sheriff’s office and demolish the main jail complex and the newest section of the jail known as D-Block, the cost would be $4.8 million, Hart said.
The renovations included bringing the office up to current American Disabilities Act and fire code standards, Hart said.
To renovate all three spaces — sheriff’s office, main jail complex and D-Block — and repurpose them as general office space, it would cost $10.7 million, Hart said.
Finally, Barton & Loguidice estimated that to demolish all three buildings and develop a new 5,000-square-foot office building would cost between $1.13 million and $1.2 million, Hart said.
“Rehabilitation of the buildings is not economically feasible given the substantial cost of remediation,” Hart said. “There are no other alternatives that meets the county’s needs.”
Barton & Loguidice has also designed two different parking lot options for the site, with either 23 or 41 parking spots. The estimate for the project is between $1.33 million and $1.9 million.
The Unified Courts System, which is a direct neighbor of the former jail, has expressed concern about the safety of the building, Hart said.
The village of Catskill has no interest in any of the buildings and supports the demolition, Hart said.
The Legislature entertained a proposal from a group in July, he added.
“This individual has stated their interest in rehabilitating the jail complex but has provided no budget and no plan to provide compensation to the county for purchase,” according to the state environmental review. “This individual had an architect come to assess the jail who was familiar with this style of construction and indicated that the structurally compromised sections of the jail could not be repaired, that it would require a complete renovation.”
Because the project will have historic impacts, the county is exploring mitigation measures, Hart said.
One measure is that the carriage house is being preserved.
The county can also look into salvaging the Ohio sandstones, Hart said.
About 200 to 240 tons of sandstone were used in the jail, Hart said. This would cost $12,000 to $20,000 to haul away.
“They are beautiful stones,” Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, said. “But what are we going to use them for? The anchoring system is not compatible with modern buildings.”
The work would be labor intensive and probably expensive, Bulich added.
Legislator Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, expressed concern over the logistics of getting the stones off the jail.
“I don’t want to see anybody get hurt for a couple bricks,” he said.
Other mitigation efforts include adding a plaque to the jail site that will feature the history of the jail and its sheriffs and donating the findings of the structural analysis performed by Birchwood Archaeology to the Vedder Library, Hart said.
The report includes photos of the jail and information on previous uses of the buildings, he said.
Catskill resident Pat Ruck inquired about the method of demolition that will be used.
“So this will either be a wet demo, which is toxic, for lack of a better word, or abatement,” Ruck said. “Will this be a dollar-and-cents decision or a health-and-safety decision?”
The contractors will either perform a controlled demo, where they will continually spray the construction site to keep the dust at bay, or pre-abatement, where the hazardous substances are removed before demolition, Hart said.
“Either way, standards are in place at the state level,” he said.
Bulich expressed concern that because of how unstable it is in the main jail complex, it might not be safe for the workers to remove the asbestos prior to demolition.
“What about the safety of the residents?” Ruck said.
Ruck wanted to know when a decision will be made and if notice will be given to neighbors.
The county will need another month to develop bid specs, Hart said, adding there will be two sets of bid specs. The Legislature will then have to review the two different routes of demolition.
“There will be public meetings and ample opportunity to discuss which option will be taken,” he said.
Legislature Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, said he thought the decision should be more than financial.
“Health and safety have to be the most important factors here. Period,” he said.
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said he thought the numbers may support pre-abatement.
“The tipping fee of the entire rubble being contaminated is astounding,” Groden said.
The demolition will not have an impact on the groundwater, surface water, flooding, air, plants and animals, agricultural resources, open space and recreation, critical environmental area and energy and community plans, according to the state review.
It will have a small impact on aesthetic resources, transportation and noise, order and light; and a moderate to large impact on land, human health and community character.
Revised at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 20, 2019