ELIZABETHTOWN -- Essex County supervisors are looking to a date in early July when the new Essex County Public Safety Building will open.

Construction is winding down on that facility, which will house the 120-bed jail, county emergency services offices, fire control dispatch and a State Police substation and regional dispatcher.

But at this week's meeting, the board authorized extension of the construction manager's contract to July 1.

The contract, held by BBL Construction Services of Albany, expired Jan. 1.

"Is there some reason that caused them to ask for this?" asked Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) during discussion of the resolution.

"Because the contract ran out," said Chairman Noel Merrihew (R-Elizabethtown).

Merrihew said the contract extension was not expected to overrun the budget but was necessary in keeping with building regulation.

"I would hope these folks would work a little hard to get this project finished. It's costing us a lot of money," said Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport).

As of March 23, the county had spent $27,613,885 on jail construction, according to Jim Pierce in the County Manager's Office.

The budget for the jail was fixed at $30 million in 2005.

A subsequent resolution was also approved allocating $375,000 of unexpended fund balance to cover an increase in the number of inmates the Sheriff's Department has had to send to other facilities.

Supervisors asked why it is taking so long to finish the jail and public safety complex.

Merrihew advised that the project is not far behind schedule.

"I thought we were supposed to be in that jail in January?" said Supervisor Anthony Glebus (R-Lewis).

Several setbacks in construction have led to intermittent delays since groundbreaking in June 2005.

"Water in the foundation was the first thing we encountered," said Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb).

An archeological excavation also caused a delay early on.

In recent weeks, additional security equipment has been required between cell-pod corridors, Merrihew said after the meeting.

"Upon final inspection, a few blind spots were found in the hallways that would leave the county open for liability."

No cost overruns are expected to come from the additional camera installation.

Merrihew told supervisors the sheriff is looking toward a July opening, with tours for the public.

"It's a wonderful facility. You all will be very impressed."

Construction of the new jail was ordered by the State Department of Corrections in 2003 due to health and safety code violations in the old county facility on Court Street.

A temporary trailer to accommodate inmates has been in use behind the old jail for nearly two years.


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