A study has been initiated to determine the feasibility of building a new county jail, though Commissioner Tom Henry stressed that this would be a “last resort.”
Wyoming County hired L.R. Kimball, an architecture and engineering firm headquartered in Ebensburg, for the feasibility study.
Kimball built the current Wyoming County Correctional Facility on Stark Street in Tunkhannock, which has been operational since the 1980s.
“I don’t want to build a new jail, but I want to be prepared if we have to,” Henry explained. “What it would cost and what it would mean to move forward, and what we would need to do to make sure we can maintain it.”
Across all 12 months of 2018, the county spent $189,180 to board out inmates in neighboring counties, making it one of the county’s largest expenses.
“Overcrowding has been an issue and our jail is out of date,” he said. “Where the previous commissioners built, there’s no room for expansion.”
The company has been looking into scenarios such as how more space in the jail could potentially help the county save on boarding out inmates while also making a profit by taking in out-of-county inmates.
Additionally, Henry said Kimball has been considering details such as how newer jails often take less manpower to operate.
Henry reiterated that building a new jail would only occur if necessary, but if the county could save money while also having a better environment for inmates with an increased ability to offer services such as substance use disorder treatment, he wants to be prepared.
If the county were to move forward with a new jail, Henry said land behind the Wyoming County 911 Center would be an option because it would allow for future expansion.
He also noted a jail built with “all new technology” could potentially allow the county to close off certain sections if inmate populations decrease.
While Kimball has returned to the commissioners with some data, Henry said there likely won’t be a conclusion to the study until October.