Upstate neighbors split on jail sites

Bryon Ackerman

More possible sites for building a new Herkimer County jail mean more concerned citizens. 

But it turns out not all county residents are against having a jail in their backyard. 

The county legislature’s Public Safety and Emergency Management Committee decided Tuesday to look into the possibility of building at the Putts Hill site in German Flatts or the former Duofold site in Ilion. 

Some residents at both sites are opposed to having a jail near their houses, but several residents on Putts Hill Road, including Joyce and Tony Casale, are hopeful the jail could lead to municipal water for their homes. 

Joyce Casale said they aren’t worried about safety or proximity to the jail. 

“I really don’t know what the big thing is,” she said. “It’s got to go somewhere.” 

County officials’ plans to build the jail at a site owned by Jane Burrell on Route 28 in the town of Herkimer were at least temporarily thwarted by resident opposition, a lawsuit and the village of Herkimer’s decision last week to deny the county access to sewer and water for the site. 

The Burrell site in Herkimer and a few other sites in Herkimer are still possibilities, and the Little Falls Industrial Park will be looked into. 

No matter where the jail is eventually built, time is running short as the state has mandated a new jail be built that includes 130 beds. The current jail in Herkimer has been deemed too small and has structural problems. 

Ilion site ‘too close’

Some residents near the former Duofold property in Ilion – such as Raphael and Mary Kalka – are strongly opposed to having a jail in their neighborhood. 

“They’ve got a lot of places they could put a jail,” Raphael Kalka said. “Why put it in the middle of a residential community? We’re out if it comes here.” 

The Duofold property is listed with the Herkimer County Real Property Tax Service Agency as 9.9 acres owned by the Coolidge Ilion company with a full market value of $600,855. County Administrator James Wallace said the entire site is 12.2 acres. 

Officials will try to find out if they can use Ilion’s municipal sewer, water and power at the site, Wallace said. 

Wallace said the site is big enough for the jail and also could fit two additional pods that could hold an extra 80 beds. He also said the state Department of Environmental Conservation told the county there aren’t environmental concerns at the site. 

The large building at the site would have to be taken down, he said. 

Douglas and Rosanne Graham live right across the street from the site on Spruce Street. They said they worry about children’s safety and the village’s sewer capacity. 

“I’m not happy about it,” Rosanne Graham said. “I think it’s too close to a residential section.” 

Spruce Street residents Diane Preskitt and her father, John Lytwynec, are opposed to the site and are calling neighbors to make sure everyone knows of the possible plans. 

“The whole neighborhood will go against it,” Lytwynec said. 

Mixed feelings on Putts Hill

Charles Stickles lives on Putts Hill Road, where some residents are against the site, others support it and some aren’t sure what to think. 

Stickles said he has no concerns about safety or the aesthetics of the jail. He said he would like to receive the municipal water though. 

Wallace said county officials will be talking to residents about the possibility of bringing Mohawk’s water supply to their homes and the jail site. The county also will look to use Mohawk’s sewer system and National Grid power, he said. 

Jean Steciak owns the site, and said it is about 217 acres in all. Her son David Steciak, who runs the Leabrook Tires business there, said there are about 60 flat acres. The county would need 10 to 15 acres for the jail site, Wallace said. 

David Steciak said he would have to move his business if the site is sold, but he would be happy for his mother because she worked hard her whole life with the family’s dairy farm. 

“I am a motivated seller, if that’s what they’re looking for,” Jean Steciak said. 

German Flatts Supervisor Frank Spatto said the discussions on this issue have just begun. 

“It’s just like anything,” Spatto said. “You sit down and evaluate it. I think the best way to do this is keep the public informed and go from there.”