November 26, 2021

Jail repair bill rises by $208K

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

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

Cortland County added around $208,000 in new repairs to the $700,000 already budgeted for the Cortland County Jail, after committee approval Wednesday.

Legislators on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and Buildings and Grounds Committee jointly voted unanimously to approve the spending — approximately $138,000 for Cell Block A and another $70,000 for stainless steel shower enclosures.

Legislators George Wagner (RMarathon, Lapeer), Chad Poli (R-Cortland) and Ann Homer (D-Cortland) were absent.

That follows $700,000 in repairs under and emergency authorization following a roof leak and internal flooding in January.

Legislature Chairman Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville) said the money would fall under the emergency repairs already going on and not need to go before the whole Legislature.

“These two items, we need to make a decision on, probably today and I guess it really plays into how much money you want to keep investing over there,” Whitney said.

Whitney would only sign off on the work if directed so by the committees.

All work done before was done so under emergency repair.

Sheriff Mark Helms asked legislators what their plans to move forward with the jail included.

“Look I want to spend the money I possibly can, but without knowing what the plan is, it kind of leaves us with no alternatives,” he said. “You’re going to spend money twice.”

The vote followed an update on work to the jail, damaged in January when a seam tore on the roof, allowing in water.

In February, the state Commission of Corrections detailed work that needed to be completed including repairing water damage, wood or metal studs, drywall, light fixtures, wiring and more.

The roof was completed Tuesday, Undersheriff Budd Rigg said.

“We’re still waiting on the materials for the law library,” he said.

The dormitory floor has been poured and now administrators are deciding what finish to seal it with. “Within a day or two, it should be complete,” Rigg said.

New work to cell block A would include:
• Removing existing sliding door devices.
• Installing new panels in cell doors.
• Installing a new control panel.
• Caulking, painting and final cleaning.

Rigg said he’s been trying to get work done in the cell block for five years. Having Pike Co., who the county hired to do work on the jail, in the jail and doing work opened that opportunity up.

“To be clear, then, this is a golden opportunity for us to do work that you needed to have done in that jail and even if we decide to stay or even if we decide to move, this is still work that urgently needs to get done,” said Legislator Beau Harbin (D-Cortland), chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Even if the county decides to build a new jail, it could take five years until a new building was finished, said Legislator Chris Newell (R-Cortlandville). Inmates would still need housing, he added. “I’m in favor of doing this stuff now,” he said.

Work on the showers will include adding 16 stainless steel shower units as well as other plumbing work.

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.

That started at about $5,500 a day, but has increased because arrests are cyclical. This morning, the jail was responsible for 85 inmates, at a cost of about $7,600.