Until the Cortland County Legislature decides whether, and how to solve inadequacies with its 28-year-old jail it, it’s considering ways to make money from land on Route 13 in Cortlandville donated to possibly house a new jail.
“There were people who thought that the jail was going to be built fairly soon and I believe building a new jail is on hold for a while,” Legislator Sandra Price (D- Harford, Virgil) said Wednesday.
The 74-acre parcel — behind the Tractor Supply Co. store and across Route 13 from the Byrne Dairy yogurt plant — was donated to the county in 2016 and at the time set aside as a site for building a new jail.
However, four years later, legislators are still debating whether a new facility is needed. Price, the new chairwoman of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, said county officials want to see how new state laws on bail affect the jail population.
“I think it will take some time for a decision to be made,” she said.
Until then the county wants to do something with the land.
“As long as we’re not doing anything with the South Cortland property, we believe we should be doing some gardening, some mowing, taking care of it,” County Maintenance Supervisor Chuck Miller said
Tuesday during a Buildings and Ground Committee meeting.
Further, county officials want to know whether the land could generate some revenue.
“There’s no significant opportunities to capture revenue from the property,” said Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Amanda Barber.
Barber, who worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation on a forest stewardship plan, said the property has no timber that could be harvested.
However, there are other smaller opportunities for land uses. About 10 acres could be used for agricultural purposes, the report stated.
“Those are good soils and there’s a lot of other good agricultural activity up and down the corridor that would make that easy to probably market and utilize,” Barber said.
But if the county wants to lease the land it would need to act soon to get farmers before the planting season begins.
Legislator Christopher Newell (R-Cortlandville) also said leases should be longer than a year because a farmer won’t want to plant and sow the crops for one year.
Miller said he thinks the county could enter three-year leases because if the county decided to build a new jail on that property, it wouldn’t be “shovel ready” for
about three years.
County Attorney Karen Howe said the county had previously leased that property to farmers, but to do so again it must first advertise it and not simply reach out to individual farmers.
Barber cautioned that if the county wants to lease land to farmers, it should put a provision in place about how the land must be left after the farmer leaves.
“A lot of times what happens is if you don’t have provisions in there for how the property be left someone could plant corn, harvest corn and basically leave a fallow field that has no value to the following lessee,” Barber said.
About 8 acres could also be used for light firewood thinning.
Barber also said another idea is planting trees to produce maple syrup if the county wants to make that investment and there is a market for it.
“A lot of these things and activities depend on the county’s willingness and ability to enter into contracts with smaller private contractor and vendors who may not have all the insurance requirements, and things like that that are typically required in county contracts,” she said. “I would just recommend you look at that and see what options you find most desirable and we try to move ahead with some of those.”
The committee will consider the topic again Feb. 11.