Legislators vote to appraise possible Herkimer Co. jail site

Bryon Ackerman

The Herkimer County Legislature took another divided step Wednesday toward building a new county jail.

Legislators voted 11-6 to pay Paul K. Hatzinger Inc. of Utica to appraise the Schuyler property off of Route 5 that’s being considered for the jail.

The vote marked the second meeting in a row that six legislators have voted against moving forward with the jail. Also, some legislators in favor of building the jail have been concerned about what will happen when it comes time to decide whether or not to buy the property.

Legislature Chairman Raymond Smith, R-Dolgeville, said he is worried about the split votes because the state Commission of Correction continues to put the pressure on to build a 130-bed jail and has given the county 60 days from June 17 to make more progress toward buying a site.

“I don’t know what will happen if we get to a point where there are more noes than yeses,” Smith said. “If we get to that point, it will be up to the commission. It will be out of our hands.”

Legislator Helen Rose, D-Herkimer, said she voted against the appraisal because she thinks the county needs to be provided with more proof of the need for 130 beds and estimates on how much it will cost to operate the jail.

“I can’t vote for anything to support it,” she said.

The site adjacent to the Schuyler Business Park is made up of a 163.1-acre parcel and a 1.4-acre parcel. County officials have said they would use 25 acres for the jail and consider using the rest to create a new business park.

In 2007, the property was assessed at $139,500, and its owners are listed as Mary Digristina and Rosario Digristina. The owners are asking for $875,000, legislators have said.

Robert Malone, the county attorney, estimated the appraisal could cost $2,000 to $2,500 to conduct.

Smith said the appraisal will be conducted very soon, and the next step would be trying to negotiate a price between what the owners want and what the property is appraised at.

“That’s our biggest hurdle to get over right there,” he said.