LEWIS For possibly the first time in Essex County history, people were eager to go to jail.
More than 500 people attended the open house for the new Essex County Jail and Public Safety Facility on Saturday, Sept. 22., Sheriff Henry Hommes said people were waiting at the doors for the first tour, which started at 8 a.m.
I think the taxpayers deserve to see what theyve spent $35 million on, said Hommes.
The jail, which will be staffed by about fifty officers, is a 120- bed facility. The jail contains two housing wings for male inmates, and one for females.
Jail administrator Richard Cutting led visitors through the complex, which is entirely computerized and uses high-tech security devices.
While the county is not yet permitted to house inmates in the facility, parts of the jail are being used already, like the laundry and kitchen facilities.
The state may not give us permission to move in right away, but were moving in a piece at a time, said Cutting.
Hommes said the training for the staff would be done by the end of September. County officials still need approval from the New York State Commission of Corrections before the facility can be used to house inmates. Hommes was hopeful that an okay would be given within three or four weeks.
Essex County Emergency Services Deputy Director and 911 Coordinator Don Jaquish also led tours of the Emergency Services facility, including the 911 Dispatch Center.
Tour participants were shown the system, which includes a detailed site display that can pinpoint residences from which calls originate. Plans are to have all Essex County dispatching, with the exception of Lake Placid, be done at the Lewis site.
Jaquish called the site one of the most modern in the country. He said it wouldnt be operational until work on radio tie-ins was completed.
It involves public safety. We do the best we can, and we dont cut corners, said Jaquish.
Hommes said the public reaction to the building had been very positive. The $35-million project has met with repeated public criticism due to the price tag. County officials are quick to point out that the facility was mandated by the state.
"It was pretty spectacular," said Doug West, of Reber, who took the tour during the afternoon. "We're going to have to pay for it for a long time, but it's a nice facility."