New county lockup still locked-up by contractor snafus

ELIZABETHTOWN Essex County Sheriff Henry Hommes pointed out a number of deficiencies by the contractors and managers of the county jail project as reasons for the still-delayed opening of the new facility.

Its frustrating, because the picture isnt clear enough to place the blame on one particular vendor, said Hommes, addressing the Public Safety Committee on Aug. 13.

The predominant issue appears to be with the locking system for the jail. Access cards havent yet proven reliable, but, more importantly, the correct locks cannot be installed (the tumblers do not match up correctly), and new locks will have to be ordered which fit the door configuration of the cells. Other problems with the locks persist, as well, including wiring problems in the segregation section of the jail, and computer programming problems.

BBL Construction, a significant engineering firm with an office in Albany, the main contractor for the project, subcontracted out the lock contract.

The farther we deviate from our completion date, the farther down the priority list we drop with our contractor. They havent been waiting around to finish this job before pursuing other business. I dont want us to get lost in the shuffle.

Several supervisors questioned why the original date of completion had been pushed in the first place, who was responsible for those changes, and what could be done contractually to get the project finished.

We had a drop-dead of October, said Hommes. Then that shifted to November, then December. And here it is August.

Another complication besetting the new jail is a shortage of female correctional officers. Though the required number of officers are in training, and will finish orientation on Sept. 28, by the time the new jail opens, with all systems in place, the officers will require retraining.

The entire group of county supervisors agreed that it would be a wise move to have Essex County Attorney Daniel Manning look into the contract with BBL, particularly regarding the companys performance bond.

The one bright spot in the entire project right now is that, despite the delays, the need to purchase new equipment, and the partial retraining of a new group of COs, the Essex County Jail project is still under budget.

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