Saratoga County

Sheriff points out overcrowding

The cluttered evidence storage room and the cardboard records boxes and old computers in an inter


The cluttered evidence storage room and the cardboard records boxes and old computers in an interrogation room helped to make Sheriff James Bowen’s point.

The law enforcement wing of the county jail in Milton is too small for its current uses, even though the building is only 20 years old, Bowen told a group of county supervisors who toured the facility Wednesday.

He’d like to see a new building for his law enforcement and communications on land next door, leaving the current jail where it is.

“We’ve outgrown it. We’re overcrowded. When you’re looking to protect the public, you have to provide the services, you have to have the facilities,” said Bowen, who has been sheriff for 35 years.

Bowen’s tour for the county Public Safety Committee occurred as supervisors are considering whether to move forward with a new $13.8 million public safety building.

Later Wednesday, project architect David Pacheco of Voorheesville reported to the Board of Supervisors on the work to date, which has included a feasibility study and some design work since his firm was retained last June.

The planned building would bring the sheriff’s offices, the county emergency management office and the county public health department into a single building.

All three departments have a need for new space, Pacheco said, and are departments that would work together in a major emergency situation.

Several supervisors who attended the tour, though, pressed Pacheco on whether the planned building will be big enough for the counties’ future needs — one of the points Bowen had urged on them.

“What we do is build for right now, and then in 10 years you need another $13 million expansion,” said Public Safety Committee Chairman Frank D. Thompson, R-Milton.

Pacheco said the design has some room for expansion, though the planned size has been reduced slightly as the design as become more detailed.

“It’s large enough for the needs now, and probably into the future 20 years,” Pacheco said.

During the tour, Bowen showed supervisors the cramped emergency communications center currently in use, where dispatchers answer phones and radio patrol cars.

The room was adopted from other uses last year with $1.8 million in new equipment. Sheriff’s officials said call volume there is expected to top 60,000 this year, up 60 percent from two years ago, since the county now answers all cellular-911 emergency calls, and most regular 911 calls.

“It’s unbelievably too small,” said Undersheriff Michael T. Woodcock. “We could use twice as much space.”

Pacheco said the new communications center is being designed with 12 dispatching consoles, and an increase from eight consoles in the current center.

The number of road patrol deputies, investigators and other officers has also grown substantially since the jail opened in 1988.

“We moved in ‘88, and now we’re at the seams,” Bowen said.

Supervisors, who have $1 million in the current county budget for further building design work, are still some time from making a final decision on whether to go forward.

“This project is complex, and something we really need to take some time to get our arms around it,” said Supervisor Alan Grattidge, R-Charlton.

A question the supervisors are only starting to grapple with is whether to borrow money for the building, which is being considered at the same time the county is considering an $8 million animal shelter and starting to build a $12 million to $15 million emergency radio system.

“At the end of the day we know financing is something we have to address. It’s time we put it on the front burner,” said Supervisor John E. Lawler, R-Waterford, who said low interest rates make it an attractive time to borrow money.

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