11/18/11 — Sheriff: Jail leaks must be fixed soon

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Sheriff: Jail leaks must be fixed soon

By Gary Popp
Published in News on November 18, 2011 1:46 PM

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The entry way to the Wayne County Jail has suffered water damage from what Sheriff Carey Winders said is a variety of problems caused by the poor construction of the building. The water also has caused an odor in the jail. Some employees have concerns that there might be dangerous mold.

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Ceiling damage at the sheriff's office caused by water problems at the jail

The Wayne County Jail is plagued by a leaky roof, leaky plumbing and elevators that regularly break down and Sheriff Carey Winders says the county needs to do something about the needed repairs immediately.

County Manager Lee Smith said the county is trying to find the necessary money to make the repairs and is working out the logistics of getting them done.

Winders said the improvements are overdue and that county officials need to make the repairs a higher priority.

"I have been patient. This needs to be done now," the sheriff said. "I am doing all I can except for bringing in a hammer and nail."

Winders emphasized that he understands the difficult job Smith and the county Board of Commissioners have in finding the money for many needs, but he said the jail has been neglected for too long.

"I know they are busy. I know they have a lot on their plate, but this needs to be taken care of as soon as possible," Winders said. "I know (county officials) are trying to come up with money, but something needs to be done. It is a serious problem."

He said the infrastructure problems at the jail affect the detention center officers, inmates and even the public.

The two elevators, which Winders said are constantly in use, break down often.

Winders said one of the two elevators stops working several times a month, and that jailers are constantly having to adapt. When the elevators are down, the transfer of inmates to and from courtrooms becomes more difficult. So does the distribution of meals and the circulation of laundry, as well as getting inmates to visitations, which can be frustrating for the inmates' friends and family.

Water leakage from rain and plumbing in the office area of the jail has heavily marked the ceiling tiles with brown water stains, left vertical water marks on the walls and unfastened tiles from the floor. Employees regularly put down large sheets of cardboard on the floors of the hallways and offices of the jail's administrative level to absorb the water, Winders said.

"Every office on this floor has been damaged by water," he said.

Visitors have been vocal in their criticism of stains and smells.

"I get complaints from citizens who say, 'You need to get this fixed,'" Winders said.

Winders said furniture and office equipment must be covered at times with large tarps to prevent water damage.

Winders said the sheriff's annex, located at 1916 U.S. 117 N. Bypass, also has a roof that needs to be replaced.

"The annex leaks like a sieve," Winders said.

After a recent rain, plastic buckets could be found placed strategically around the facilities, collecting drops of water falling from the ceiling.

Smith said the county has already put a plan in motion to replace the jail's leaky roof and noted that project should begin before the end of next year.

"The only way to fix it is to replace it," Smith said. "We would have to pull the entire system off."

Smith said the current estimate to replace the roof system is $1.3 million.

It will be a big job, he emphasized, with a crane needed. What else will be required to fix the roof remains to be seen, Smith said.

"We are not sure what we will find once pieces are removed," he said.

While a new roof could stop rainwater from making its way into the jail, the plumbing would still be a problem.

Smith said the plumbing will be difficult to fix because the chase system was not properly built, and that the county can only work within the confines of what already exists.

He noted that many of the plumbing problems are intentionally caused by inmates.

Winders agreed that inmates damage the plumbing, creating leaks, but he added that some of the system's shut-off values do not work properly, so jailers are often unable to isolate problems.

Smith said the elevator malfunctioning at the jail is not a unique problem when compared to other county buildings in which the elevators are in almost constant use. Repair crews can often be found working on keeping them going in several county buildings, he said.