MERCER COUNTY Legislature passes bill to sell land for jail site

The new jail has a price of $17 million and would house 266 prisoners.
MERCER, Pa. -- A bill authorizing the sale of about 16 acres of state land to Mercer County for a new county jail has passed the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Dennis Songer, Mercer County Prison Board president, said the board learned at its meeting Monday that the legislation now only needs the signature of Gov. Tom Ridge to make it official, which he is expected to do within the next few weeks.
The land won't be free, but it will be sold to the county at a nominal cost, probably less than $7,000, Songer said, noting it is zoned for correctional use and can't be used for any other purpose.
He said state Sen. Robert Robbins of Greenville, R-50th, and state Reps. Richard Stevenson of Grove City, R-8th, Rod Wilt of Greenville, R-17th and Michael Gruitza of Hermitage, D-7th, all worked to get the legislation passed.
Undeveloped land: The site's land is held by the state Department of Corrections as part of the minimum-security State Regional Correctional Facility in nearby Findley Township.
The property is undeveloped and lies along Thompson Road.
The prison board urged the county commissioners to finalize the land deal, Songer said, noting a preliminary design on the proposed new jail should be ready for review at the board's July meeting.
The 266-bed facility has an estimated cost of $17 million, including $1 million for site development.
The expense will be paid from a $34 million bond issue borrowed by the county.
Mercer County has been plagued with continual overcrowding at its 114-bed jail on South Diamond Street for years, frequently averaging an inmate population of more than 180 per day.
The county has had to pay to house the overflow in jails in neighboring counties.

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