tcsheriffoffice120The Legislature approved a capital project that will renovate the County Public Safety Building to increase jail capacity and be expected to decrease the County’s inmate board-out expenses.  (The vote was unanimous, with Legislator Nate Shinagawa absent.)

The project will construct a covered outdoor recreation area and convert the little-used current indoor recreation space to dormitory space for seven inmates.  The project, initially estimated to cost $900,000, will also include design work for an optional later phase that would provide seven more beds, should Sheriff’s administrative functions be able to move to other quarters.  The County will contract with LaBella Associates for architectural and engineering services.

The county jail has maximum capacity of 75 inmates, and has operated with temporary variances over most of the past decade, with the current allowed maximum of 93.  At a current cost of $80 per inmate per day, the County in 2012 spent $244,000 to board inmates at other jails, not including the associated transport cost.  With the average board-outs per day at between 6 and 8, it was noted that the 7 additional beds would reduce the need to board out inmates and increase capacity to 82, the jail’s current average daily population, without additional staff cost.

County Administrator Joe Mareane again advised that a strong business case exists for the project, and said design of the later phase as part of the project will demonstrate the County’s good faith in working toward a longer term solution.  Sheriff Ken Lansing believes the project will demonstrate to the State that progress is being made toward increasing jail capacity and Public Safety Chair Brian Robison noted that the project will pay for itself in five years through reduced board-out costs.

The Legislature also approved $2,500 in contingent funds for OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources) to support the cost of complying with new State legislation governing charitable bail organizations—required application and licensing fees, testing costs, fingerprinting, and surety bonds for staff.  The Legislature also appropriated $10,000 in contingent funding to the OAR bail fund.  In 2012, OAR provided bail assistance to 69 clients, averting an estimated $455,000 in jail board-out costs that would have otherwise been borne by the County.

Appropriation of $40,000 from STOP-DWI fine money was approved to purchase a STOP-DWI fully equipped road patrol vehicle for the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office.