October 23, 2021

County jail roof fixed; work moves inside

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Crews are shown working on the roof of the Cortland County Jail in Cortland in February 2019. File photo.

The Cortland County Jail roof is water tight, officials said Monday, almost a month and half since a 12-foot seam opened in it, letting water inside and forcing the evacuation of inmates.

Some outside trim work remains to be finished, said Undersheriff Budd Rigg.

“It allows us to start some of the work inside,” he added.

Bad weather hampered progress on work at the Cortland County Jail last week, Sheriff Mark Helms said. “Now we can get going on the stuff we were unable to do,” he said.

On Jan. 24, a 12-foot seam opened in the jail’s roof, letting water in. By 8 a.m., 2 to 3 inches covered the floor of a dormitory facility that can house 30 inmates. Water continued to leak in other places.

Sixty inmates were evacuated to other counties’ jails. Cortland County is paying about $90 a day, per inmate, to keep them elsewhere — 90 inmates today, more than $8,000.

That started at about $5,500 a day, but has increased because arrests are cyclical.

Work inside the building includes fixing the dormitory floor, certain light fixtures, drywall and wiring.

In February, the county approved emergency repairs on the jail not to exceed $700,000.

Rigg said that contractors will also have to look at replacing the ceiling in the Law Library as well as other insulation and duct work.

There is no timeline yet to when inmates will be moved back in.

Before a joint Judiciary and Public Safety meeting last week, Rigg said the state Commission of Corrections returned to the jail for another walk through to outline further inspection and work needed to reopen the facility.

Rigg was waiting on the report Monday, but said once he has it it would be made public.

During the special joint Judiciary and Public Safety and Buildings and Grounds committee meeting last week, legislators discussed having Pike Co., the company in control of repairs to the county jail, walk through the building to consider other potential improvements.

Pike Co., based in Rochester, went through the jail Monday, Rigg said. Their tour was not related to ongoing emergency repairs, but instead the possibility of expansion.

Legislator Paul Heider (R-Solon, Cuyler and Truxton), vice chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety committee, said Pike will consider improvements that can be made to the jail in light of a report from Helms that came in August.

Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland), chairman of the Buildings and Grounds committee, said the improvements Pike would consider would include expanding laundry services, food storage and kitchen services.

“It’s really more toward if we decide on the existing jail be expanded,” Harbin said.

The county’s jail is rated for 57 inmates, yet routinely houses 90, 100 or more, some in exercise space re-purposed as a dormitory, others at other counties’ jails.

Another joint Judiciary and Public Safety and Buildings and Grounds meeting is set for March 27.

Senior Reporter Catherine Wilde contributed to this report