Jail okayed for alternative funding


By David Avitabile

The road to a new Schoharie County jail may be fast-tracked after supervisors agreed to accept federal funding for the project, if that option is offered by the federal government.
After waiting months for FEMA to agree to relocate and build a new jail instead of rebuilding the old one, supervisors Friday morning bypassed that hurdle. They agreed to accept alternative federal funding known as a "428" plan for the project.
The application for the federal funding has already been submitted to FEMA. If approved by FEMA by December 31, the project will be fast-tracked, county flood coordinator Bill Cherry told supervisors.
Fulton Supervisor Phil Skowfoe asked for a dollar figure for the funding, but Mr. Cherry could not give one for the project Friday. He said he would only accept the funding if it was high enough. He would not recommend accepting the funding if it was less than $30 million.
Mr. Cherry hoped that the county would get between $30 and $40 million for the new jail which would be "a good start." He estimated the construction costs for the jail to be about $19 million with a total of about $32 to $34 million for the entire project.
While he believed that the federal funding would be adequate to fund a new jail, much would depend on the number of cells in the new jail, the actual construction costs, and other components of the project.
County taxpayers, added Mr. Skowfoe, cannot be burdened any further.
If successful, the county would have to spend the money on the project before it would be reimbursed, according to Mr. Cherry.
This major flood recovery project would include architectural design of the new facility to the state Commission of Correction current standards; site acquisition and preparation; infrastructure and utility connections, and construction.
The current jail was heavily damaged during the flood after Hurricane Irene.
The communications center and the Sheriff's Office have been relocated to the second floor of the facility, but inmates still have to be bused back and forth from the Albany County jail, a service that is 70 percent reimbursed by FEMA.
If the county can get an adequate amount of funding, supervisors have agreed to drop their second appeal currently pending before FEMA to relocate the jail.
FEMA officials are still debating whether to pay to rebuild the county jai in the same location, or move it to another location. An initial decision from FEMA ruled that the jail would be rebuilt in the same spot, but the county has appealed that decision and fought to get FEMA funding for a new jail to be located out of the floodplain.
The county has elicited some outside help to aid its cause, Mr. Cherry added.
The governor and homeland security officials are "actively taking up the case," according to Mr. Cherry.