Fayette Panel Pursues New Prison

Article excerpt

A Fayette County group that is exploring ways to improve prison operations on Thursday discussed possible locations for a new jail.

County Commissioner Al Ambrosini organized the group in November. Its members meet monthly to report back on progress individual teams have made regarding ways to improve various aspects of prison operations.

The group's recommendations -- which will include suggestions for everything from implementing mental health and drug and alcohol programs to building a prison -- are to be presented to the prison board by the end of the year, Ambrosini said.

Leader Jim Killinger said the architectural team met with three architectural firms that specialize in building new prisons. All recommended that the county move quickly, if it intends to build a new prison, because costs will only increase.

"We have to find property, and we have to find it now," Killinger said. "The longer we wait, the more it's going to cost."

Killinger said each firm nixed the idea of renovating the existing, overcrowded 124-year-old prison, which sits behind the courthouse in Uniontown.

"They just shook their heads at us," Killinger said. "They've been in that prison. It's not cost-effective."

Controller Sean Lally, a member of the group, identified the former Army Reserve Center on Route 21, across from Uniontown Hospital, as one possible site. He sent a letter to the Army's Reserve Installation Management Directorate seeking to secure for the county sole-source bidding rights.

Should the request be granted, no one but the county could bid on property, Lally said.

He emphasized that commissioners would have to approve any attempt to acquire the property, with his letter serving only as a first step in the process.

Ambrosini said he will contact two economic development agencies for help identifying other possible sites.

Killinger said one of the architectural firms indicated it built a 370- to 500-bed prison in Beaver County in 2000 at a cost of $18 million. …