Architect picked to examine Fayette County jail
A Pittsburgh firm has been selected to study expansion or renovations of the Fayette County prison.
Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Angela Zimmerlink chose Astorino Architecture during a special meeting Friday.
Commissioner Al Ambrosini, who continues to support construction of a prison by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates of Mechanicsburg, abstained from voting.
“They have experience,” Zapotosky, the board chairman, said of Astorino after the vote. “As a matter of fact, they built PNC Park.”
Astorino was among four firms that expressed interest in doing the project more than 18 months ago.
“Astorino has experience not only as an architect, but as an engineering firm in building correctional facilities,” Zapotosky said later. “They are a more than qualified firm.”
The commissioners had planned to build a prison in Dunbar and North Union townships. But in September, Zapotosky and Zimmerlink voted to stop the project, which Zapotosky had supported.
The two commissioners ousted Ambrosini as board chairman last month.
Zapotosky said he believes renovations or expansion can be done for far less than building a prison, projected to cost $32 million.
The commissioners need to negotiate the terms of the contract with Astorino, Zimmerlink said.
Ambrosini said after the meeting that he continues to believe a new prison, all on one level, would be best for the county.
The county continues to waste $200,000 monthly to house inmates in other county prisons and to transport them there, he said. More taxpayer money is wasted through inefficiencies of the 125-year-old prison located behind the courthouse in Uniontown, Ambrosini said.
“We have the solution, and it’s going to save taxpayers money,” he added of a new prison. “It’s not going to cause taxpayer costs to go up.”
More time and money will be wasted while his fellow commissioners consider renovations or expansions, Ambrosini said.
Ambrosini claimed elections next year sparked the about-face with the new prison and claimed his fellow commissioners, who already have served more than one term in office, don’t want to address the prison overcrowding and related issues. All three commissioners are up for election in 2015.
“I don’t see this problem getting solved, to be quite honest with you,” Ambrosini said. “I see it as smoke and mirrors.”
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724- 836-6622 or [email protected].