Report casts doubt on Cortland County’s need for new jail

The Cortland County Jail in 2015 (Cortland Voice file photo)

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A one-page report delivered to Cortland County legislators on Thursday appears to contradict many of the claims made by lawmakers over the past several years about the need for a new county jail.

In a report to the Cortland County Legislature's Public Safety Needs and Assessment Committee, which was formed with the specific purpose of studying the pros and cons of building a new county jail, legislator Joseph Steinhoff, who chairs the committee, outlines eight different reasons that offer a strong case against building a new county jail.

“Contrary to what the Cortland County Legislature has been told, we are NOT in any danger of losing our jail variances,” the report reads.

The report, which was drawn up by Steinhoff and delivered to county legislators Thursday afternoon, is the result of a meeting in Albany with New York State Sen. James Seward, three members of the New York State Board of Corrections, Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms, Cortland County treasurer Ralph Canfield, and legislators Don Boyden, Steinhoff, and George Wagner.

“Contrary to what has been reported over and over again in The Cortland Standard, the NYS Board of Corrections has not told Cortland County to build a new jail, much less where to build it,” one of the bullet-points reads.

The report also states that state Board of Corrections will continue to extend the county’s variances and advised county legislators to move cautiously.

The proposed public safety complex would be constructed on a 73-acre parcel of land on Route 13 in Cortlandville, adjacent to the Tractor Supply Company. The land parcel was donated to the county by DMK Development, LLC, a Michigan-based development company.

Several legislators have been strong proponents of the project, while others have remained skeptical. At one point, Sheriff Mark Helms said a new jail should have the capacity for 200 beds.

It’s unclear if the county legislature plans to move forward with the controversial project, which has an estimated price tag of $38 million.

Read the report below: