A state Supreme Court justice decision Wednesday could set the wheels in motion for a new Herkimer County jail at the former P&C Foods site on State Route 28 in the village of Herkimer.
State Supreme Justice Erin Gall declared an amended zoning ordinance that restricted construction of correctional facilities and jails within the village “null and void” and has ordered the village to grant access to sewer and municipal services pending the county’s resubmission of an application, according to court documents released in Herkimer County Court.
If the village doesn’t appeal, county Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono said they’ll be able to move forward with construction.
“I’m definitely pleased with the outcome,” he said. “It’s been the position of the county all along.”
Attorney Mike Longstreet, the village's civil litigation attorney from Longstreet and Berry in Syracuse, said the ruling suggests the village acted preemptively in enacting the zoning ordinance.
“An appeal would take a period of time,” he said, adding he would need to discuss the next move with officials.
The county has been pursuing plans to build a new jail at the site — expected to cost between $33 and $34 million — due to the lack of space at the current county jail.
The current facility can house 41.
On average about 55 inmates are boarded out at a cost of $150,000, according to the county’s website for the month of May.
Bono noted currently they’re over budget with the jail.
The new jail would house 130 inmates, county Administrator James Wallace said, and after a year, would be able to double bunk, housing up to 154. Wallace said a few deputies might need to be hired to accommodate the larger facility.
The county now has 45 days to apply for sewer and water access, and if the village doesn’t appeal, Bono said they would move forward with purchasing the site.
As long as an agreement on the purchase price can be reached with the owner of site, Bono said it won’t have to go to court where the county would pursue the land through eminent domain.
He added many people come up to him asking when they’re going to build the jail.
“The time is now,” he said. “It’s time for this to end. The taxpayers are the ones suffering.”
The village has 30 days to issue a notice of appeal and another 60 days to perfect it, county Attorney Robert Malone said.
Village Trustee Harold Stoffolano said he doesn’t know yet what action the village will take.
“We’ll wait to see when we sit down,” he said. “It’s not a win-win situation as far as I’m concerned.”
Page 2 of 2 - Legislator Helen Rose, D-Herkimer, was at the ruling and said it was “as clear as mud.”
“We’ll have to see the way it plays itself out,” she said, noting the possibility for the village to appeal.
Rose also added if the county does move forward with construction, she hopes it’s an open process with everyone involved.
If the village does appeal, Bono said the county is in it for the long haul.
“We’re in it this far,” he said. “To go to another site, this could start all over again.”