Archived Story

Jail upgrades needed to meet state code

Published 7:31pm Friday, January 17, 2014

Polk County’s Jail did not meet compliance during a September 2013 state inspection in the areas of enough jailers, a food storage issue and a problem with the HVAC system.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office sent a plan of corrective action back to the state, which was later approved.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners discussed the state’s jail inspection during a meeting on Jan. 6.
“On Sept. 17, 2013, Garrick Starck, jail inspector from the Construction Section of the Division of Health Service Regulation, inspected your facility to determine compliance with 10 NCAC subchapters 14J-Jails, local confinement facilities,” said Steven Lewis, section chief of the DHSR Construction Section in a letter to Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill. “This inspection found deficiencies whereby corrections are required.”
The deficiencies included that the state requires two jailers watching inmates at all times. According to the state inspection, there are two jailers per shift who are assigned other duties such as transporting inmates to court or for medical issues, supervising inmates in the kitchen or when grounds maintenance is performed by inmates.
“This leaves only one jailer to operate the jail which includes conducting supervisory rounds, booking/intake and any other unexpected events,” states the inspection. “This situation creates a potential unsafe condition for jail staff and inmates.”
Sheriff Hill told commissioners he doesn’t understand the jailer deficiency because he has three jailers there during the day, but for some reason the state doesn’t count the jail administrator as a jailer.
“I have three there during the day (counting the jail administrator),” Hill said. “The inmates cut grass, pull weeds and last week I had them busting wood for the needy. There have to be two jailers in the jail at all times. We’ve come up with some ideas to resolve that issue.”
Polk County Interim Manager Marche Pittman said on busy days the county is going to fill the positions with part-time staff to ensure that two jailers, not including the jail administrator are in the jail at all times.
Another deficiency was in the jail’s HVAC system. According the state’s report, the HVAC system is not capable of maintaining temperatures in the jail below 85 degrees, which does not meet state code. The vents were also dirty, which have since been cleaned.
In the sheriff’s corrective action report, Hill said the county’s maintenance director has had contractors into the detention facility to evaluate the HVAC system and give input on possible actions for solutions to the issue.
Maintenance director Mickey Edwards told commissioners the HVAC problem is an airflow problem because of preheat coils that were placed in the system years ago. Edwards said he has a proposal for a company to remove about half those coils. Edwards also said the system currently has a compressor that is down and although the county doesn’t need it this time of year that will have to be fixed by the summer.
The other deficiency was found in the food storage area. Pittman said he is seeking estimates for a storage building or adding onto the existing building.
Pittman suggested a storage building since adding onto the jail would be a large expense for a building that’s nearing the end of its life.
The state inspection found that the jail’s storage on the shelves in the file room is less than 24 inches from the ceiling, which does not meet state code, power taps are not permitted to be piggy-backed together or extended by a drop cord and that the use of drop cords is not permitted.
Hill told commissioners that storage pantry has been there over 20 years as it was there when he worked for former sheriff Boyce Carswell.
Hill said the extension cords were actually being used for fans because of the HVAC system problem to try to circulate the air, so staff was trying to solve one problem and the state cited them on something else.
Commissioners decided to discuss the jail inspection and needed measures during its Feb. 3 meeting.

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