By Cindy Sanchez
(LANCASTER, Pa.) Lancaster County Commissioners approved the $3 million land purchase for the proposed construction of a new county prison.
The board reached an agreement with Clyde and Shirley Kreider to purchase the 75-acre tract located on a Lancaster Township peninsula bordered by the Conestoga River. The Kreider property is estimated to be ten times larger than the current site. The site fits all of the necessary criteria the county searched for regarding space, vacancy, access to water and sewer, is located within five miles of the Lancaster Courthouse, and has minimal impact on residential neighborhoods.
The new prison will replace the currently outdated and inadequate facility on East King Street, which has significant systemic limitations and deficiencies where renovating or building is no longer feasible. The castle-like structure dates back to 1851 and has not been used in the last eight years. The prison has seen additional building units and renovations since the 1960s but still lacks modern accommodations.
The county will first enter a 90-day diligence period that started on May 25 to examine the area to ensure that the land is suitable for a prison and won't impact any surrounding areas. According to the land purchase proposal, the diligence period will involve various studies of matters such as full title search, environmental, history/archaeology, geology, wetlands and utilities. Following the 90-day diligence period, which ends Aug. 23, the county has the opportunity to either terminate the purchase or take an additional 18 months to observe and approve zoning regulations. During those 18 months, the county will once again have the chance to terminate the purchase if zoning regulations are not up to par with their needs.
There will not be immediate payment for the property but rather a $100,000 deposit into an escrow account from a general fund.
The construction of a new prison on the outskirts of the city allows city residents to reclaim an entire block.
"The site of the current jail, in the midst of a robust urban area, is not the appropriate location for a use like a jail," Commissioner Craig Lehman said, per Lancaster Online.
The county commissioners' unanimous vote is the first big step into this process and certainly not the last. The plans and proceedings for the new prison could take as long as four years before it can open its doors.
For more information on the proposals, links to meetings and updated plans for the new prison, residents can visit the county website.