Jail Expansion Project Stirs Controversy

By Peter Quinn

Published 01/30 2014 04:20PM

Updated 01/30 2014 05:01PM

There's controversy over the way Broome County tried to award a bid for the engineering work of expansion projects at the jail.

New York State is requiring that a new medical unit be added to make sure that men and women inmates are separated. A gym at the jail is also going to be converted into housing so Broome doesn't have to pay to board out inmates to other counties. Engineering work still needs to be done for the projects.

That's where the problem comes in. Democratic Legislators Dan D. Reynolds and Jason Garnar say the county administration and Republicans inappropriately tried to bypass the competitive bidding process in order to get the work done faster. The state wants the medical unit added ASAP, but Reynolds says the idea of bypassing the process should have been brought up for discussion, which he says wasn't done.

"We were really required to do some work at the jail, there's no doubt about that. But, nobody told us that we had to skip competitive bidding. It was not a requirement and it really shouldn't have been done," said Reynolds.

Democrats on the legislature are introducing legislation that they say will ensure transparency for future contracts. At its recent meeting, the resolution authorizing engineering work to a Rochester-based company for $843,000 was actually held over by Republican Legislator Dan J. Reynolds. He says he wanted to make sure the issue was looked at closer.

"One of the things that we wanted to make sure is that this vendor that they recommended is the most qualified. We believe that they are. They did the jail construction previously and have also been involved with the study project that was done last year," said Reynolds.

The issue is expected to be talked about at the legislature's February meeting. It will cost nearly $6 million to do both projects.

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