While the Whitley County Jail may have officially opened in August, this doesn’t mean that all the construction work was done at the time or that everything was in working order, according to Whitley County Jailer Jerry Taylor.
Taylor said that since moving into the facility, the jail has been plagued with mechanical and construction type problems.
“We didn’t expect a new facility to have the problems that it has had,” Taylor said.
The problems vary throughout the building.
At least one security door won’t close completely when it is opened. This door must be shut before a second door can be opened leading into another area of the jail.
At least one lock to a recreational room at the jail is extremely difficult to open, and requires two hands to turn the key in an effort to open it.
At least one staff toilet isn’t working properly.
“We moved up here the latter part of August, and realized real quick that there was only one phone line up here when we moved in. It was hectic around here. We now have three phone lines, and need three more,” Taylor said.
In another instance, a yellow electrical wire runs from the ceiling in the jail hallway to under a cell door so that cell has electricity to run the television and other devices.
“The state came in a few days back, and they didn’t like the fact that we had orange electrical cords running down the hallway, but the people in the cell down there didn’t have any electricity, and they had to get it somewhere,” Taylor said. “Come to find out there weren’t any wires run down through there to the cell, so the whole thing down through there is going to have to be rewired. The state frowns on it, but they don’t know all the circumstances evidently.”
Taylor said some problems are more severe.
One section of the jail is cooler than it should be because of problems with a boiler.
“There is a lot of it that is a serious problem,” Taylor said. “Something is causing that boiler to shut down. Boilers have been known to blow up. If that boiler back there were to blow up, whoever is in this kitchen, or this cell, or this laundry room could be in bad trouble. There are some serious problems in this jail.”
Taylor said there is another area of the jail where there are beds for 32 inmates, but that there are no working locks on the doors because a control unit isn’t working.
“What I have had to do in the past is hire someone, a man on each shift extra, in order to guard back here to make sure that the men didn’t get over with the women, and the women didn’t get over to the men,” Taylor said.
Because of the problems with that cell unit, Taylor said inmates could theoretically walk right out of the cells and out the door if they wanted too without a guard in that area.
Taylor said the jail is also plagued with smoke alarms that go off frequently.
“Principally, this jail was supposed to have been built to be smoke free,” Taylor said. “The fiscal court hated to stop smoking in the jail, and changed the system somewhat. Now, every time somebody smokes in one of those little rooms back there, the fire alarm goes off, and we will get a call from the emergency people.”
Taylor said jail officials are in the process of compiling a list of problems at the jail that will be submitted to the press and the fiscal court.
Taylor said he would probably be able to get some of the problems repaired if the jail would hire Harold Lynn Douglas as a full-time maintenance person or pay him for contract work, Taylor said
Taylor said Douglas has done some work for the county to get the jail in working order, but the county hasn’t paid him since August.
“Now they won’t pay Harold Lynn Douglas. As you can see, we have problems that need to be repaired, but they won’t pay the man, so he doesn’t feel like he should be working, and not receiving any pay,” Taylor said.
Taylor also doesn’t care for a move by the fiscal court last week that limits the maximum number of employees at the jail to the equivalent of 32 full-time employees.
Taylor said he thinks the number of employees needs to be about 38 full-time workers.
Taylor said in his last meeting with Jim Woodrum, a consultant who recommended the 32 employee figure to the fiscal court, Woodrum told him and his son that it would take at least 38 people to operate a jail that size.
“38 would have been a decent figure. With 32 people, we will have serious problems with it,” Taylor said.
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