Eye on expansion: Broome County jail to get bigger

By Erika Mahoney

November 8, 2013 Updated Nov 8, 2013 at 6:48 PM EST

Town of Dickinson, NY (WBNG Binghamton) After years of talk on expansion, the Broome County jail is getting bigger.

Broome County lawmakers approved the county's 2014 budget Thursday. Included in the spending plan, a move to borrow $5.7 million for jail upgrades.

In less than two months, a two-part project will help the jail fulfill a state mandate and fix an overcrowding problem.

The medical unit will be expanded to a 16 person unit that will be divided by gender.

"We have a 12 unit now, and we need another unit to conform with the commissioner of corrections' standards, which is you can't have males and females in the same area," Sheriff David Harder said,"

The second part involves the expansion of an unused gym.

Other than monthly GED testing, the gym has essentially remained empty over the past ten years.

Soon, it will converted into dorms with 48 beds.

"It will have a dividing wall so we can actually split it into 24 and 24 if we have to," Harder said. "Each side will have its own recreational area as well as its own bathrooms and shower."

The space will help cut down the number of inmates they have to board out.

Overcrowding has cost the county about $2 million a year for the past several years. On average, it costs $80 to board an inmate at another jail.

When it comes to the future design of the jail, the circumference of the jail won't change.

Instead, the medical facility and gym will expand inward, into the jail's center court.

There are security and construction concerns.

"How do they get their machinery in there, we have to work that out with them," Harder said. "It may have to be craned in."

As the sheriff looks forward, he's also looking back to when they first proposed the expansion.

"Back then, it was only going to cost maybe $4 million."

Still, Harder said he is happy the plans are moving forward.

The Broome County deputy executive said the entire project should be completed in three years.