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Sheriff’s study compares costs

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — After completing a recent analysis, Sheriff Michael Schiff and his staff have concluded that the proposed new jail may be better sited in Monticello than at the former Sullivan Correctional Facility Annex in Fallsburg.
And a decision may be near, according to Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis.
“From an operational standpoint, the approved site in Monticello makes more sense,” Schiff remarked. “Transportation costs are not a one-time expense – they go on forever. The cost of fuel will increase in the future, and with concern over reducing our carbon footprint, keeping the jail central to all the activity is a wise move.”
The study, conducted by Jail Administrator Col. Hal Smith in April, revealed that medical transports of inmates from the annex site would add 330 manhours and 5,165 miles a year over the Monticello site (known as the Mapes property but now owned by the county).
Located near Route 17’s Exit 104 in Monticello, the Mapes site is about a mile and a half from the current jail and County Courthouse on Bushnell Avenue. The Annex property, on the other hand, is about eight miles north off Route 42.
The study also said court transports would increase by 650 manhours and 9,655 miles every year at the annex site versus the Mapes site.
Schiff said Monticello and surrounding areas feature four of the five busiest courts in the county.
“We put ourselves here because of the work,” he said.
While not yet ready to make an official recommendation, Schiff said he does favor the Monticello/Mapes location, and he hopes legislators take his office’s study into account before embarking on the more costly evaluation needed to begin work at the Annex.
But with some officials, especially Fallsburg Supervisor Steve Vegliante, greatly in favor of utilizing the otherwise vacant Annex, Schiff said he’s willing to be persuaded.
“If somebody can show me it’s going to be cheaper in the long run, then we need to be out there [in Fallsburg],” he explained. “I will push for whatever’s fiscally best for the citizens of Sullivan County.”
County Manager David Fanslau, however, said the county can’t move forward until the state gets back to him about the terms and conditions of sale for the Annex.
If and when that happens, capital and operating costs will be studied – if the County Legislature wishes to look into the Annex further.
That decision may be made by June, said Rouis.
“I’m going to urge my colleagues to finalize ... site selection and get a bid ready,” the Legislature’s chairman said yesterday.
While he likes the Monticello location, Rouis said the jail project may not actually go out to bid even if the Legislature is unanimous on the location – due to the county’s dire financial plight and the national recession.
In the meantime, Fanslau is providing legislators with his own staff’s study of the costs associated with transportation to and from the Annex.
Based on the numbers provided by the Sheriff’s Office, the Annex site could cost $35,581 more than the Mapes site in medical and court transport costs in the first year, rising to a nearly $1.7 million difference 30 years down the road.
Whatever the choice, Schiff hopes legislators waste no time.
“I think at the rate the state is closing down our cells [due to deteriorating conditions in the century-old jail],” he observed, “we need to move.”

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