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Fayette County gets 5 proposed property sites for jail expansion

A former funeral home, a social club, a building supply store and a warehouse are among five properties that have been made available for sale to Fayette County for a possible jail expansion.

Prices for four of the parcels range from $280,000 to $400,000 and were submitted to the county via sealed bids, chief clerk Amy Revak said. All were in response to an advertisement posted to the county’s website.

They include the former Johnston Funeral Home at 65-67 N. Gallatin Ave. for $280,000, the Catholic War Veterans Post 1669 at 157-159 E. Main St. for $400,000, a former building supplies store at 144 and 148 E. Main St. for $350,000 and two commercial structures at 63 and 75 N. Beeson Ave. for $300,000.

The fifth proposal, for a warehouse at 120 E. Penn St., arrived unsolicited and without an asking price. The property owner submitted engineer’s drawings showing how the building could be renovated for a jail and connected to the nearby prison annex via elevated, covered walkways.

Commissioners Angela Zimmerlink and Vincent Zapotosky voted to seek the proposals as they explore alternatives to building a $32 million Justice and Rehabilitation Center.

The county, under Commissioner Al Ambrosini’s guidance, was set to advertise bids for the prison at a site in North Union and Dunbar townships when Zapotosky withdrew his support.

Zapotosky and Zimmerlink voted to halt work on the proposed jail in favor of options that will keep the prison complex in Uniontown. One of their first directives was to advertise for property in the city for a potential jail expansion.

Zapotosky and Zimmerlink said they will reserve judgment on the proffered parcels until experts they intend to hire review them.

“Rather than speculate, I will make my decision once an architect/engineering firm is selected and given an opportunity to fully assess the current location and nearby areas within the city limits and provide us with their suggestions,” Zimmerlink said.

Ambrosini said housing inmates in multiple facilities is more costly and dangerous from an operational standpoint than building a new lockup with all inmates and services under one roof.

“It’s dangerous for the community and it’s dangerous for the corrections officers,” Ambrosini said. “What are you going to do, walk people down the street? There is no way to put a vehicle sally port in any of these facilities, so you will let them out on the street, and walk them in the door. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not safe, and it’s not cost-effective.”

Louis “Weeger” Agostini, who along with his brother, Darin, owns the buildings at 144 and 148 E. Main St., said the 3.5- to 4-acre site is near the courthouse and prison.

“I think location is the key to it,” Louis Agostini said. “You can walk right down the tracks to get to it. We always have thought that would be an excellent location for it.”

The site has a market value of $413,971, chief assessor Bill Lukach said.

Paul H. Bortz Jr., a real estate agent who is listed as the contact for the properties on North Beeson and North Gallatin, could not be reached for comment. The sites have market values of $212,447 and $254,569, respectively, Lukach said.

The Catholic War Vets building on East Main Street has a market value of $225,149, Lukach said, but the organization sent the county an appraisal valuing it at $658,000. It connects to Pennsylvania Avenue, near the existing prison annex, according to its written proposal.

Ted Muzika, contact for the post, could not be reached for comment. The post is selling the building because it is moving, according to its proposal.

The fifth property, owned by Thomas Yezbak of Yezbak Enterprises, is close to the annex behind the courthouse and includes a one-story warehouse and adjacent parking lot.

Yezbak said he did not submit a sealed proposal to the county, but he had K2Engineering render drawings depicting how the warehouse could be renovated into a two-story building with cell space. Copies of the drawings, which he delivered to several courthouse offices, depict elevated walkways that connect the renovated warehouse to a proposed central court building and the annex.

The walkways would extend over railroad tracks and a creek, according to the drawings produced by K2 Engineering of Uniontown.

“It would be nice because it will keep it in Uniontown, where it belongs, and it connects to the existing prison,” Yezbak said.

Yezbak would not disclose an asking price. His proposal was not submitted with the other four properties via the sealed-bid process with a listed selling price.

Uniontown City Council last week voted to give the county a former police station on East Peter Street for a prison expansion. Known as the old city jail, the brick structure is next to the current jail. It needs at least $100,000 worth of improvements to bring it up to code, City Clerk Kim Marshall said.

Zapotosky said the old jail could house a kitchen, chapel and attorney-inmate meeting rooms, but likely wouldn’t include many cells.

“My suggestion to free up square footage for cells would be to utilize it for the kitchen, the chapel, attorney-client rooms and for family visitation so we have more space at the old facility for cells,” Zapotosky said. “Structurally, the building is sound but needs a lot of work inside.”

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or [email protected].


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