Next Wednesday, July 28th, is shaping up as round three in Genesee County’s attempt to get a grip on the size and cost of the new county jail it has been mandated to build by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
At the end of the Genesee County Legislature’s Public Service Committee meeting today at the Old County Courthouse conference room, County Manager Matt Landers said he has received an updated 10-page bed study from the SMRT architectural firm of Portland, Me.
Landers said he plans to go over the report at a meeting of the full legislature next week, and expects to have a revised cost estimate from the Pike Company of Rochester at that time as well.
“We’ve done this twice before,” Landers said. “Going back three or four years, the legislature gave me a thumbs-up, and probably two years ago when we were getting a better handle on the costs, I did it again and got the legislature to agree to $60 million. We were all in agreement – thumbs up.”
Calling the coming session a “good gut check,” Landers said it will be the first time that two new legislators – Brooks Hawley and Chad Klotzbach – will get to hear the full scope of the project.
Genesee County has been conducting its due diligence on the construction of a 184-bed jail on land just east of County Building 2 on West Main Street Road.
Landers is hoping that $60 million figure is still in play, but things could change in this post-COVID environment.
“Now, we’re in a different world, COVID, numbers, everything. So, once again we need to make sure everyone is on board for whatever cost estimates are before us,” he said. “The next thumbs up is going to dictate preparing our bid documents and going out to bid sometime in the spring. If cost estimates are two or three times (what we budgeted for), we’d have to stop and wait.”
He noted that SMRT reported that the 184-bed number is still intact, but even that isn’t etched in stone.
“We all know that the state is taking a left turn, to a degree, with social justice reforms,” he said. “Is that the way it’s going to be for awhile or is there going to be a pendulum swing, using the sheriff’s (William Sheron) words. But how much of one?”
Another factor is whether the state will allow those sentenced for one or two years to be kept in county jail.
“Now, if it’s longer than a year, you’re sentenced to state prison,” Landers said. “The state, using the mantra of social justice and to save money, may decide to shift these people and keep them in (county) jails, which meets their argument of keeping them closer to their families.”
WHAT ABOUT THE CURRENT JAIL BUILDING?
When asked if it was possible to sell the current jail in tandem with the sale of the City of Batavia police station building, Landers said it was “an interesting concept but there a lot of pieces that would have to work together.”
“It’s going to take longer to build a jail than it’s going to take to build a police station. We’re not going to be out of the current jail for two or three years and that’s if there are no cost overruns and we are ready to go in the spring,” he said.
Landers also mentioned that Genesee Justice and the backup 9-1-1 center are housed in the jail building.
“We have to make sure we have the ability to move all of that out into a new location. All of that has to happen,” he said. “And to tie that with the city. They may be waiting on us, and we’re still not out.
“Timing is everything. If everything tied up and we wanted to sell it, maybe it would work, but we have as part of our contract with SMRT a dedicated study to see what we could use the current jail building for in the future.”
The county manager said he has thought about using the jail portion of the building at West Main Street and Porter Avenue as a countywide records’ center.
“I have been thinking that it could be a shared services model because all of these towns have permanent records,” he offered. “We could take a jail cell and say ‘Town of Byron, here’s your permanent records'; 'Town of Bergen, here’s your permanent records’ and actually have a centralized shared service project where all the records from the county come to one area.”