BANGOR – On Tuesday morning, members of an advisory committee for the Penobscot County Jail sat in front of county commissioners for a second time. They again recommended building a new jail.
the Penobscot County Jail continues to operate beyond capacity. That leaves county commissioners searching for a solution.
“This is probably the most expensive project this county had ever addressed so we really have to be careful and thoughtful and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Penobscot County Commissioner Chairman Peter Baldacci.
More than a year ago, members of the Penobscot County Jail advisory committee recommended building a new, 300-bed facility.
“It’s a new facility that meets needs, that provides spaces for services and so forth that are woefully inadequate currently or to just have no control over what happens,” said Penobscot County Jail Advisory Committee Member James Ring. “The decision seems pretty easy.”
However, for town leaders and taxpayers, the decision isn’t going to be easy. By working with engineering consultants, Ring and the rest of the committee members found that building a new jail would cost 430 million dollars over 30 years.
“The building cost itself…it’s more in the order of 70 million dollars,” said Ring. The 430 million dollars is a 30-year net present value cost.”
If county leaders decide to do nothing, operating the jail over 30 years would cost about the same. That’s according to research done by the advisory committee. However, Baldacci says room for error is great when talking about costs spanning three decades.
“I guess I would like to look at the next ten years and say ‘what does it look like’ because when you go beyond that you’re really speculating,” Baldacci said.
“These are unavoidable costs,” said Ring. “You know, if we do nothing it’s going to cost as much as if we do something so we should do what is best for the county, the folks that it will serve, but that’s still going to be a really big challenge for commissioners to fund such a large project.”
Baldacci says the commissioners will continue to listen to public comment and do further research before moving forward with a final decision.