Jail nearly done--but maintenance will be costly


By Patsy Nicosia

Construction for Schoharie County’s new Public Safety Facility is in its end run, on-time to be substantially complete by mid-November and open for business by January 1, 2020, supervisors heard Friday.
Funding its day-to-day operations and maintenance though?
“That’s going to be a big nut,” with “the jail and maintenance more than $1 million” in the 2020 operating budget, Administrator Steve Wilson said after Middleburgh Supervisor Pete Coppolo questioned those costs.
Friday, Mr. Coppolo asked Mr. Wilson whether he had any figures for heat, electricity, and general maintenance.
Not really, Mr. Wilson said.
“No cost at all?” Mr. Coppolo said, pointing out that before the Town of Middleburgh began work on its ambulance and shelter building they had estimates from its engineers.
“We’ve gotten some numbers,” Mr. Wilson said. “It will be in the 2020 budget. That’s where the principal costs will be.
“We’ve gotten numbers. I haven’t added them up. I know we can answer that fairly easily, but I’m not prepared to answer them now.”
Still, now that it’s time to start paying for them again, “the jail and maintenance are going to be a big part…More than $1 million in our [2020] operating budget,” Mr. Wilson said.
FEMA and New York State are covering 75 percent of the $44.3 million PSF construction project with the local share about $6 million—money the county could easily take from its $18 million fund balance, said County Treasurer and Recovery Coordinator Bill Cherry Saturday.
As far as day-to-day operations and maintenance, Mr. Cherry questioned the $1 million figure, but said the fact that there will be a cost should come as no surprise.
“I don’t believe it’s $1 million,” he said, in part because the new jail will be smaller than the old one and more efficient.
“But of course, there will be maintenance costs. That’s not a surprise. We had them with the old jail. “
Mr. Coppolo also asked whether there would be any construction money left for a maintenance building at the PSF, pointing out it will be costly and time-consuming to regularly move equipment from the Department of Public Works site in Schoharie and back.
Probably not—though there was some discussion over whether a proposed 3.5-megawatt solar project on about 15 acres east of the jail might generate some additional revenue.
There are some concerns, however, with the site.
NextEra Energy is handing the solar project and members of its environmental team recently met on-site with county officials including Senior Planner Shane Nickle.
It’s not an easy site to access, Mr. Nickle said, and getting through the rugged, tree-covered terrain might require a right-of-way through neighboring properties.
“What happens if we can’t rectify it?” asked Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe.
“If there’s a fatal flaw in the process, they could not do the project,” Mr. Nickle said.
But Blenheim Supervisor Don Airey, who also met with NextEra’s team during the visit, said the developers are fairly confident it won’t come to that.
“They were more optimistic that we were,” he said. “They seemed undeterred.”
In yet another piece of the jail costs, Sheriff Ron Stevens has forwarded a list of clothing, bedding, and personal heath care items they’ll need to purchase before opening.
The list is based on an inmate population of 20-30; estimated cost is $10,387 to $11,265.