Fayette County OKs buying land from development council for new jail
Fayette County commissioners voted on Tuesday to buy a tract of land from the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council for $1.25 million for a new county jail.
Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Al Ambrosini approved the purchase of 58 acres in North Union and Dunbar townships to build a jail, estimated to cost $31 million, to replace a facility built in 1889 in Uniontown.
Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink voted against buying the land, saying the site was intended for economic development, “not a jail.”
The action took place at the end of a contentious five-hour meeting as many citizens packed into the board's meeting room questioned the move.
“Are you really serious about you are going to build a prison on a swampland or sinkhole?” asked Geraldine Mazza of Franklin Township.
Some residents claim the site near Laurel Mall is undermined, prone to flooding and lacks adequate sewage.
The county will seek a geotechnical study to examine subsurface conditions and materials at the site, Ambrosini said.
Mazza questioned a potential future claim on possible mineral rights.
The county will have 90 days to perform necessary record searches, obtain financing and close on the property.
“Whenever you enter into a sales agreement, then you do the search. If you don't like what the search says, then you don't go through with the agreement,” said John Cupp, a county solicitor.
Mary Beth Homistek of Uniontown asked why the commissioners planned to buy 58 acres for a three-acre facility.
“The owner chooses not to sell it piece by piece,” Ambrosini replied.
Homistek questioned calling the facility the Fayette County Justice and Rehabilitation Center.
“We are going to rehabilitate people. We have to reduce the recidivism,” Ambrosini said.
Speaking in favor of the project was Frank Rutherford, a representative of the United Mine Workers of America, the union that represents county corrections officers.
“They are responsible for the care, custody and control of some of the worst inmates in the state,” he said.
A new jail is needed, Rutherford said, to protect employees and to thwart lawsuits from inmates because of “deplorable conditions.”
“This jail is worse than third world country jails,” Rutherford said.
Zimmerlink said that some corrections officers told her they do not think a new jail should be built, but they could not go on record for fear of losing their jobs.
Last week, a rally was held outside the courthouse and election bureau in an effort to get a referendum on the primary ballot to halt construction of the jail and to consider options. The group said they collected more than 3,500 signatures, although the solicitor for the election bureau previously said such a referendum is not permitted under state law.
“I'm not real concerned about how they (inmates) have to live,” Donald Coleman of Lemont Furnace told commissioners.
“Why wouldn't you want to listen to those people who signed the petition? ... Let the people vote on it. Let's start all over and let the people get involved.”
Terry Kriss, co-owner of the historic Meason House, less than 800 feet away from the proposed jail site, said he had polled the majority of the Mt. Braddock residential and business community. “Everyone signed that petition,” he said.
“It should never be permitted in an industrial park, taking up 58 acres of prime, tax-generating property intended for private investment and business growth,” Kriss said.
Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Time to celebrate
- Carnegie Free Library plans Big Book Sale
- Geibel seniors land lead roles
- New Horizon 4-H member says showmanship, bonding key to showing lambs
- Western Pa. nonprofits roll dice on casino company grants
- Suspect in Uniontown woman’s homicide surrenders to police, claims innocence
- Fayette County board OKs Energy Corp. of America to pump water from river for drilling site
- ‘Phantom’ breezes into Laurel Highlands High School
- Creepy, kooky cast bringing ‘The Addams Family’ to Connellsville Area stage
- Rabies clinic for dogs, cats set for Saturday in Uniontown
- Connellsville robbery suspect has bail modified