Jail repairs correct deficiencies

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 29, 1999

The Butler County jail has been undergoing repairs and renovations over the past month due in large part to a report from the State Fire Marshal's Office in late November that the facility did not meet their requirements.

Since a special meeting held by the commission, contractors have been on the job making necessary repairs that they hope will allow the jail to pass the next inspection.

Hagan Construction Company, which has been doing the work at the jail, began with repairs the week after a special called meeting on Nov. 22. Since that time several of the problems cited on the fire marshal's list have been addressed.

"All the known electrical problems we had have been repaired," Jail Administrator Dwight Hudson said. "The conduit had rusted out and had left some electrical wires exposed. They have gone in and put in new wires and a new conduit."

The contractor also had to replace a section of the ceiling on the bottom floor of the jail, above the showers and hallway. Hudson said that particular job has been repaired as well.

Another major concern was a series of cracks that had formed over the years along the outside walls of the facility.

"They have put latex caulk in the cracks between the bricks to seal them up. This should prevent moisture from going inside the cracks and into the building," Hudson said.

In addition to caulking, a series of weep holes have been drilled around the building at both floor levels to allow any excess moisture that may get into the building a means to drain out.

The final project to be taken on by the contractor is furnace and chimney repair. Hudson said that the chimney, that once served the furnace, will be closed off and a direct vent will be made running from the furnace to the outside of the jail. He said those repairs should be made within the next week or two.

Once the chimney work is done the county commission and Sheriff's Office will soon find out if the repairs they have made meet his approval.

"Once the contractors finish up the final repairs we will await another inspection from the state fire marshal to see if there is anything else we may need to do to satisfy his requirements," he said.

The inspection of the county's jail took place on November 11 when the following violations were detected:

n The plaster ceiling between the first and second floor has come loose in places and has fallen, leaving an opening between the floors. The report states that "water had settled in the ceiling for a long period of time and has rusted the conduit piping leaving the building's electrical wiring exposed. The electrical lights mounted to the ceiling are loose and in danger of falling. This condition is a fire and electrocution hazard as well as a danger to the inmates and the jail employees from falling debris."

n The inspection showed that cracks on the exterior wall of the jail had expanded since the last inspection on April 6. The chimney, located on the west side of the building, is cracked from the foundation to the top.

The jail's gas fired heater is connected to the chimney and soot was found to be venting through the cracks. The report stated that this was a fire hazard and a health hazard.

n Fire marshals recognized that "bricks above the front door have shifted to a degree that they are in a position to fall away from the building."

n Cracks along the walls of the jail also caught the eyes of the inspectors.

"The outside brick walls of the jail have cracks and broken bricks on each wall. These cracks are too numerous to count," G.W. Maddox, deputy state fire marshal, said.

To conclude the report the fire marshal's report said the jail, in its current condition, was unsafe and that corrective action must be taken.

"This inspection concluded that the jail had deteriorated to such a degree that it is only a matter of time before the chimney and/or a part of the exterior wall falls. It is this deputy's opinion that the jail is not structurally safe in its present condition."

"Corrective action must be carried out immediately to eliminate all violations noted. The State Fire Marshal Office does not grant permission or approval for the operation of any facility where code violations exist," Maddox wrote in his report.

County Commissioner Joe Hendrix said he felt that the improvements made will help the county meet the fire marshal's requirements.

"We have caulked a lot of those cracks and have done a lot of electrical work," Hendrix said. "We are spending several thousand dollars on the facility in order to get it back into shape."