Jail site could be in trouble


By Patsy Nicosia

Schoharie County may need to find another site for its jail.
Indications are that environmental reports from LaBella Associates will show that wetlands, a historic site, and a high water table-or even an aquifer-could substantially restrict the "buildable" spot in the center of the 24-acre Seebold site.
If that's the case, said Recovery Coordinator Bill Cherry, it could make putting the jail there too costly, and supervisors may need to find another site.
Contacted by the Times-Journal, Mr. Cherry confirmed he'd had conversations with LaBella that raises some concerns and though he is still waiting on the final reports, he expects to be able to share them at Friday's Board of Supervisors meeting.
It's likely that the jail could still be built at the Seebold site, he said, but the modifications required would just make it too expensive.
Mr. Cherry confirmed that the site is getting "squeezed" by an old foundation to the west and wetlands to the north.
Additionally, LeBella's report is expected to indicate a possible high water table or even an aquifer underneath the slope to the rear.
Working around those limitations-likely by significant excavations to the eastern slope--would be expensive and unaffordable; there's also a chance the excavation would impact neighboring wells and even the Village of Schoharie's water supply.
Mr. Cherry confirmed that he shared some of these concerns with supervisors in August.
If LaBella's reports confirm what he's been told verbally, Mr. Cherry said Friday he expects to recommend to supervisors that they step back and reopen the search for alternate sites.
Mr. Cherry said that the jail designed by LaBella so far could be picked up and moved to another site.
He also said that because the Seebold purchase was contingent on actually building the jail there, the county will lose only the $5,000 it paid to "reserve" it-not the entire $375,000 purchase price.
More than a dozen sites were originally considered for the jail.
Mr. Cherry said just one of them meets what will likely be a re-ordered list of priorities, and he declined to identify it because he hadn't yet spoken with the owner.
Mr. Cherry said in order to keep the project on schedule, he believes a top priority needs to be existing municipal water and sewer.
Going down his list, he said it also needs to be at least 15 acres, close to the courthouse, out of the 500-year flood plain, be accessible to major highways, and have the least negative social impact on its surroundings.
Assuming it comes to that, Mr. Cherry said he wants public input on the site selection and process as well.
Groundbreaking on the jail at the Seebold site was expected in March of 2017.
If supervisors decide by November or December that they're willing to begin studying an alternate site, Mr. Cherry said he's optimistic groundbreaking would be delayed by no more than six months.
The existing jail was flooded in 2011 by Hurricane Irene.
FEMA and state officials have agreed to give the county up to $37 million to build a new jail out of the flood plain.