Officials Recommend New Jail for Fayette County
(10/15/2013)

Fayette County officials have recommended that the county build a new jail at a cost of $27-$32 million in order to replace the current 124-year-old, overcrowded prison.

In a 4-1 vote, the Fayette County Prison Board recommended that the city build a new jail on a 77-acre site already owned by the county. A study by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects, based in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Sleighter Engineering, based in Uniontown, Pa., demonstrated that if the county made no improvements, the operational costs would come in at $11.3 million. Those costs would drop to $10.4 million if the facility is renovated and expanded. But the prison board opted to build a new jail because they found it to be the most cost effective option with an annual operating budget of $8.4 million. Annual operating costs are based on the counties need of a 406-bed facility, Crabtree said.

According to Tom Crabtree, president of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects, the new jail could save the county $85 million over a 30-year financing period. The county currently owns the site selected for the new prison, which is currently operating as fair grounds in Dunbar Township. This means that county residents wouldn’t incur a tax increase.

Crabtree also encouraged the county to utilize alternatives to incarceration, such as a recently opened day reporting center.

“You've got to continue the effort of reducing your county jail population,” Crabtree said to the prison board. “Don't lock people up the community doesn't demand. If you do, your prison population will skyrocket.”

The current 19th century, 242-bed prison has no air conditioning and has had overcrowding issues for some time. The county is contracting out 77 additional beds in neighboring Armstrong, Cambria, Butler, Greene and Centre counties. However, Butler County recently agreed to house another 34 inmates at $60 per day. The county projects that it has already spent more than $1 million this year in housing inmates in out of county facilities.

Four public hearings were scheduled in order to allow for public comment. The last public hearing will be held at the American Legion of Masontown Oct. 9.

The Fayette County Commissioners will make a final decision though no vote has been scheduled.

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