December 1, 2021

County OKs $600K more for jail boarding

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

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

After almost four months of boarding inmates out of the Cortland County Jail following extensive storm damage, jail administration approached county lawmakers Tuesday for further boarding out funds — a total of $600,000.

“That’ll take us hopefully, to the end of the year,” said Undersheriff Budd Rigg.

For the past few years the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office has budgeted around $400,000 for the expenses of boarding inmates out, said Sheriff Mark Helms. Since January, the department has used that funding and exceeded it by around $68,000.

On Jan. 24, a 12-foot seam opened in the jail’s roof, letting stormwater 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.

On Tuesday afternoon, the jail was responsible for 73 inmates, at a cost just over $6,500. Before the unanimous decision was made by the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee to support the resolution, Legislator George Wagner (R-Marathon, Lapeer) wanted to know if the sheriff’s office could make due with less money, for now, to not drain the general fund.

“I’d be willing to give them $300,000 at this point in time and come back when they need more,” he said.

“I’m curious to what only giving half at this point does in terms of as we’re trying to plan to match the budget through the end of the year,” said Legislator Michael Barylski (D-Cortlandville), chairman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

“It brings them back,” Wagner replied. “I do not want anyone in this room to forget that we screwed up. The roof should have been done last year, we had the money.”

Wagner said the delay in roof repairs last year has now cost the county over $1 million to fix. Helms said if the legislators only gave them half, it would only cover expenses until mid May.

After almost 20 minutes of discussion legislators approved the resolution. It will now go before the full Legislature later this month. Any money not used from the $600,000 would be returned to the general fund.

Helms said he has been hoping to have the inmates back in the jail by now. However, recent repairs have delayed that.

“Every time we open something, we find something else to keep going on,” he said.

Helms did not have an exact time frame for when inmates would begin to move back into the jail. He hopes it could be as soon as next month.