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November 14, 2019 - 2:40pm

Legislature endorses plan to build new 184-bed jail for $60 million

posted by Howard B. Owens in jail, news, notify, batavia.

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Now that a new 40-year sales tax agreement is in place, the County Legislature is ready to move forward with designing and building a new jail on land next to County Building #2.

Assistant County Manager Matt Landers presented an anticipated budget for the new facility with an anticipated expense of $60,000,000 at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Wednesday night.

The proposed jail will hold 184 beds in four pods, giving the jail staff space to keep separate jail populations for men and women as well as threat level, mental health issues, or substance abuse issues.

The location is off West Main Street Road in Batavia. 

The actual construction costs are an estimated $49,763,323 million: with more than $2 million in expense for design; $2 million for furnishings; $1.2 million for bonds and insurance payments; $1.2 million for a construction manager; more than $1 million in additional expenses for planning and development; plus $1.8 million set aside for unexpected costs.

Construction will be funded by bonds, which will be paid back over 30 years by the sales tax revenue that has been shifted away from villages and towns as part of the new state-approved sales tax agreement.

Chairman Robert Bausch said that under this plan, there would be no need to raise property taxes to help pay for the jail.

Bausch also noted that the county's consultant initially projected, based on county inmate trends, that Genesee County would need a 215-bed facility but that a new bail reform law is expected to reduce the demand in the county for inmate beds.

However, there is room available on the proposed jail site to add two additional cell blocks if the need arises.

If sales tax revenue falls short in the coming years, Landers noted, there is other county debt that will retire and revenue now going to pay those expenses can be reallocated to the jail debt if necessary.

With the new jail, the county will be able to go from being a tenant in other agencies' facilities -- all female inmates are housed at other jails in the region -- to being a landlord for other counties, the state or the feds.

"Local counties, the federal government, the state, are all short of space right now," Bausch said.

Revenue from other jurisdictions will cover some of the jail's ongoing operating expenses.

Legislators Shelly Stein, Gary Maha, and Gregg Torrey all spoke in favor of proceeding with the proposal.

"I served on the new jail committee," Stein said. "The details were combed through, and it is my recommendation that we proceed with 184 beds ... To not hit property taxes," she added, "is a major win for what we've done together as a legislature."

The need for a jail is beyond dispute, Maha said. 

"I'm not fond of spending $60 million," Maha said but the current jail is in bad shape, is landlocked, and the state is demanding a new facility in compliance with state standards.

"This is the county's responsibility and we have to get a jail done, and we have to do it right," Maha said.

Torrey agreed with Maha and said, "we have one chance to do it right. We hired a consultant, and I think it's best to follow what they recommend we do."

Photo: Members of the legislature listen to incoming Legislator (not in frame) Christian Yunker on his thoughts about the new jail, which he also supports.

CORRECTION: The bonds will be paid back over 30 years, the maximum time period for bond payback under state law.

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