Sheriff: Jail repairs should finish in February

Julie Lewis | The Daily StarChris Clark, electrical foreman for A. Treffeisen & Son, left, and Dan Thomann, superintendent at Murnane Building in Whitesboro, work on renovations Tuesday, Jan. 14, in the dormitory unit of the Otsego County Jail in Middlefield.

Renovations and repairs at the Otsego County Jail are expected to wrap up next month, according to Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin Jr.

A $1.6 million renovation of the jail’s dormitory section began in the summer and is expected to be completed by the end of the month, he said.

The first phase of the project required the temporary relocation of some inmates to facilities in neighboring counties before the rest were moved in November, Devlin said.

Heavy rains in the overnight hours of Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 caused significant water leakage into the building, creating puddles on the floors and infiltrating the ductwork and air-handling system.

Since then, the county’s 37 inmates have been housed in the Delaware and Albany county jails at a cost of about $80 per day, Devlin said, costing the county about $3,000 per day, in addition to expenses for employee overtime and transportation when inmates are scheduled to appear in court.

“We’re doing a lot of running around,” Devlin said.

Devlin estimated that patching the building’s leaking roof will cost the county between a quarter- and a half-million dollars.

“It’s a 30-year-old building,” he said. “Routine maintenance has been an issue — it’s been neglected for several years.”

The county used leftover funds allocated for jail renovations in last year’s budget and dipped into its reserves to fund the repairs, according to David Bliss, chair of the county board and representative for the towns of Cherry Valley, Middlefield and Roseboom.

Bliss acknowledged that the board has been aware of the dilapidated conditions of the jail for several years.

A 2015 building assessment conducted by the New York State Commission of Corrections found several structural deficiencies and other problems within the jail, Devlin said.

“For several years I’ve been trying to have a discussion on the future of this building,” Devlin said. “We’ve outgrown it — it’s inefficient and ineffective.”

“As we’ve gone on with this project, we’ve found other things that definitely need to be fixed,” he said.

The Corrections Commission required additional painting, cleaning and inspection of electrical wiring and ductwork to be completed before the jail can be inhabited again, Devlin said. Inmates are expected to return to the jail in small groups next month, pending the results of a state inspection of the facility in the coming weeks.

Devlin said more extensive renovations are still needed.

“I don’t want the misconception that the county just spent $2 million on the jail and it’s good to go for the next 10 years,” he said. “That’s not the case.”

Bliss said county officials are budgeting for the necessary repairs “as much as we can while staying under the tax cap.”

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com.

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