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Temporary jail facility reconsidered in Fayette County

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

Fayette County commissioners said Tuesday that they may seek a new site to build a temporary women's jail, citing renovation costs for a Uniontown building that was under consideration.

As part of plans to build a $32 million prison, officials want to set up a temporary women's facility to alleviate crowding until the facility is built.

The county had identified a one-story building at 32 Iowa St. as a possibility, but Commissioner Al Ambrosini said an estimated $350,000 in renovations rendered its viability “questionable.”

At Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink's suggestion, the board agreed to consider advertising for proposals for another location. Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky said county-owned properties should be considered.

Although Ambrosini said the first site has not been excluded, Zimmerlink said she no longer considers it an option.

“It should never have been considered in the first place, as soon as you found out the condition of the building,” she said.

The county will not own the building after it spends money on rent and renovations. “If we invest money, we should see something out of it when we are done,” Zimmerlink said. “We won't see that out of the Iowa Street location.”

The building needs a sprinkler system and costly steel-mesh coverings for 19 windows, Ambrosini said.

Zimmerlink's motion will be placed on the agenda for the commissioners' meeting on Feb. 18, despite her concern all the information will not be available by then to develop specifications for bidders. She said she was not given a copy of renovations proposed by Crabtree Rohrbaugh Associates for the Iowa Street location.

“Those documents could be useful for any new building location because it is not solely modifications to Iowa Street, but also a site plan, which gives anyone looking at the site plan an idea of his concept for the dorm-style women's annex,” Zimmerlink said.

The board next week will consider appointing SGA Financial Advisory Services Inc., also known as Susquehanna Group of Harrisburg, to guide the county as it seeks funding for the new prison, the annex and an addition to the Children and Youth Services building.

The group's initial fees would not exceed $25,000, according to the proposal to appoint SGA.

It falls a month after Ambrosini and Zapotosky voted to advertise for bank proposals for a $10 million tax-exempt loan for the same projects. Plans called for borrowing the rest of the money in increments over two years.

Mark Lundquist of Susquehanna told commissioners he had recommended that course of borrowing because he believed the county was under pressure to begin paying for design and engineering services. He said now that a tax-anticipation loan will be used for those purposes, there is no urgency.

Lundquist said incremental, tax-exempt loans can still be an option. Susquehanna's role would be to ensure the best options are exercised.

Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. Feb. 18 in the Public Safety Building in Uniontown.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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