December 5, 2021

Repairs to jail nearly finished

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

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

If everything goes according to plan, all the inmates could be back in the Cortland County Jail by the end of July — six months after they were first removed due to extensive storm damage.

“I can’t give you a specific date,” Sheriff Mark Helms said Thursday. “Every day, I hope that within a month they’ll be back and then each day I see what we’re running into with repairs. The end of July might be where we’ll end up, but I’m hoping that’s not the case.”

Inmates have been boarded out at $90 per inmate per day since Jan. 24, when leaks from a 12- foot seam opened in the jail’s roof and let in stormwater.

As of this morning the jail was responsible for 82 inmates, at a total cost of $7,380. Between January and May 1, the county has spent $656,650 to board the inmates at other jails. May 1. Helms said that does not inlcude transportation or other costs.

“We’re running $200,000- something a month,” Helms said.

In February, the state Commission of Corrections detailed other work that needed to repair all water damage inlcuding the dormitory floor, wood or metal studs, drywall, light fixtures, wiring and more. Helms also had to verify other items like that the indoor air quality meets Health Department standards and electrical systems work. On top of that, Helms said a decision was made to get other work done since the inmates were out.

Repairs to the roof, totaling around $700,000, were finished March 26.

In March, Undersheriff Budd Rigg said having the inmates away was a “golden opportunity” to do work that needed to be done “even if we decide to stay or even if we decide to move.”

The county Legislature is considering options to expand the jail or build a new jail.

Other work includes:
n Cell Block A repairs: removing existing sliding door devices, installing new panels in cell doors and a new control panel and caulking, painting and final cleaning at a cost of $138,000.
n Repairing old, leaky pipes
n Adding 16 stainless steel shower units at a cost of $70,000.

“The repairs that we’ve had to do have been extensive,” Helms said. The total cost for all the repairs is still being calculated.

Helms noted some of the work was prolonged because of the time it took to get equipment and pieces.

“It bothers me that it’s taken this long, but it looks like we’re in the tail end of this and we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” Helms said. “Now, it’s just buttoning things up to make sure we’re ready and obviously we have to have the state’s approval.”

Helms said the jail will be able to house 89 inmates. He had put in for a variance for three more beds through the state Commission of Corrections but was denied.