December 2, 2021

Tab for county jail repairs: $2.2 million

Cortland Standard file photo

A man enters the Cortland County Jail in this May 2016 file photo.

In the final tally, repairing a 12-foot roof seam and other issues in the Cortland County Jail cost the county $2.2 million, including the cost to board inmates out while the work was done, county officials said.

That includes $1 million to board inmates at other facilities at a cost of $90 per person per day — far more than the $400,000 budgeted for that expense for all of 2019. Despite a $600,000 infusion, that fund is almost tapped out, with nearly five months remaining in the year.

“I had like $8,000 left, I can’t even pay this month’s bill,” said Undersheriff Budd Rigg Tuesday.

The department is asking the Judiciary and Public Safety committee to approve another $150,000 for boarding out costs at the committee meeting on Aug. 13.

The facility was empty for nearly six months after a roof seam began leaking stormwater into the jail in January forcing an evacuation.

Rigg said $400,000 was budgeted by the department for the year to board inmates out because of chronic crowding. However, that budget line was depleted about four months into repairs. In April, Sheriff Mark Helms asked for $600,000 more to board out inmates. At the time Rigg said “That’ll take us hopefully, to the end of the year,” but this month he’ll ask county legislators for more money as inmates continue to be boarded out.

On Tuesday, three inmates were boarded out, Rigg said, noting that at one point after the inmates had returned to jail they had a high of around 19 inmates still boarded out.

He said the reason the cost for boarding out was high was because the inmates stayed out of the jail longer, so that other repairs could be done that weren’t necessarily from the damage caused from the roof leak.

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

Other work included:
• 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.
• Repairing old, leaky pipes.
• Adding 16 stainless steel shower units at a cost of $70,000.

The total cost of repairs, including the roof, came to $1.25 million, said Legislature Chairman Kevin Whitney (R-Cortlandville). That bill will be paid using the jail reserve account, which had $2 million in it for either building or renovating the jail.

After repairs were finished Helms said he heard some legislators suggest the jail was almost like new again. However, he said the recent repairs did not help the jail with the overcrowding issue it has been dealing with.

The existing jail was built in 1992 with a planned capacity of 50 inmates. It has been crowded since 1997, but now can hold up to 89 with special permission from the state.