List of possible jail sites keeps growing


By Jim Poole

The list of potential sites for Schoharie County's new jail continues to grow.
But even if there are more sites, there's no one property that stands out from the rest, according to Bill Cherry, treasurer and flood recovery coordinator.
When the Board of Supervisors learned last month that their favored site, the Seebold property in Schoharie, wouldn't work, Mr. Cherry suggested five more.
These were the Nark Farm on Shady Tree Lane, property across from MOSA on Route 7, Doc Reilly Park, land on Forester Road, and Industrial Development property on Mineral Springs Road. All are in Cobleskill.
Also in the mix last month were the A&S Garage between Middleburgh and Schoharie and land on Zicha Road in Schoharie.
Since then--even in the past week or so--more sites have been suggested: Parcels owned by Arlene Vrooman in Schoharie; by Lynn Roberts at Shad Point; and by Jeff Back in Central Bridge.
"There is no perfect site," Mr. Cherry said. "The best we can do is choose the best site for our county, our community."
Ideally, he said, the site should have access to water and sewer lines, and if possible, natural gas. Most of the Cobleskill sites meet those criteria, but all have issues.
For instance, several officials have suggested Doc Reilly Park as ideal. But because it was given to Cobleskill as a park, state and federal regulations sharply restrict its use for other purposes.
Engineers like the IDA property on Mineral Springs Road, Mr. Cherry said, but the jail would be in full view of the road and I-88.
A few supervisors favor Zicha Road or A&S Garage because the jail would also house the public safety facility, meaning that a police presence would remain in or near the Schoharie Valley.
But both those sites would require extension of water and sewer lines, which Mr. Cherry estimates would cost roughly $2 million per mile.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, plus money from the state, totals $37 million for the new jail. Mr. Cherry fears that the cost of extending water and sewer lines might come from local tax dollars.
"I am really worried about the money," he said.
Earl VanWormer, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the lack of water and sewer lines shouldn't exclude a site.
As an example, he suggested that extending lines along Route 7 to Zicha Road would also open that area for economic development.
"If we develop more water and sewer, we may be better off in the long run," Mr. VanWormer said.
Two possibilities often mentioned are the former Summit Shock facility and the current vacant county jail.
Summit Shock is too far from population centers and the courthouse in Schoharie.
As for the current jail, the state Department of Environmental Conservation won't issue a permit for a critical facility in a flood plain, Mr. Cherry said.
Also, the state would withdraw its funding for a flood-plain re-build, he added. That means the county would lose $9.250 million in funding if officials persisted in the old jail site, he said.
Finally, county officials already convinced FEMA that the old jail site was unusable, and they could hardly reverse field now, Mr. Cherry said.
Although Summit and the current jail are out, the long list of potentials offers opportunities.
"I like the idea of opening the search up to the world of Schoharie County," Mr. VanWormer said. "We have more people involved. I'm optimistic.
Mr. Cherry would like supervisors to select two or three sites that engineers could zero in on. FEMA is paying the county 70 percent of the cost of boarding prisoners elsewhere--$1 million per year--and Mr. Cherry doesn't want the agency to change its mind.
"I have my fingers crossed that they keep paying," he said. "It's critical that we've got to get this thing built."