10/04/12 — County OKs jail rehab money

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County OKs jail rehab money

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 4, 2012 1:46 PM

A $1.581 million budget amendment to earmark funds for major renovation work at the Wayne County Jail was unanimously approved by county commissioners Tuesday morning as part of their consent agenda.

The money will come from the fund balance.

"As we are renovating the detention center, we are in the process of finishing up our bidding on a number of areas including roofing and some modernization," County Manager Lee Smith said. "It is a good project.

"Basically what we are doing is getting all of the bids together and finalizing all of the projects. A lot of things that we are doing were recommended by the state jail inspector. We think they will be real pleased when they come in and see what has happened over the past few months."

The project breakdown is:

* $325,000 for fire modernization including upgrades for the sprinkler system. "They are actually putting values on every floor and upgrading all of the piping," Smith said. "We were having a lot of problems with leaking. We are upgrading the fire pump system."

* $575,000 for re-roofing, including meeting security requirements.

* $125,000 for security cameras, control panels. "They are actually going to be able to save on the cost of employees and security by not having keys on every floor," Smith said. "All of the doors will be controlled by a control panel in the booking area in a secure location."

* $138,000 to renovate water-damaged administration areas and the booking area.

* $80,000 for painting. "We are saving money there," Smith said. "We are using inmate labor. We have a supervisor supervising inmates and trustees that are working in the facility and actually doing the painting. That is saving us well over $100,000."

* $225,000 for elevator upgrades and modernization of controls.

"One big problem with the jail continues to be overcrowding, on average of about 25 to 30 per day," Smith said. "The jail inspector notes that on each inspection. We can't just solve that issue by moving people out.

"We have actually placed dollars to send inmates to other counties. I think we have about 20 inmates in other counties right now within the region. That will run you $50 up to $75 (per inmate) a day to send them out plus transportation. So it is very expensive."

Smith told commissioners he hoped to talk with them within in the next couple of months about some ideas about a 10-year plan to expand space.

"Instead of building a new jail, we are looking at alternatives to a jail," he said.

That could include talking to area counties about a regional facility, he said.

"The sheriff is working really real hard on that," Smith said. "We will be back to you before December on that."

Finding additional space was also the crux of a goal the county submitted to the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners to include as a legislative goal.

The goal requests the reduction in jail space requirements in existing and new jails in the state. That would allow more inmates to be housed in existing space, Smith said.