County waiting for review of jail repairs

Published 5:14 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Time is the key factor in determining when inmates return to the Beaufort County Detention Center, according to the county’s public-works director.
“Time. I think we’ve overcome most of the obstacles. Right now, we’re waiting to get the review back from the Department of Health and Human Services,” said Christina Smith, the county’s public-works director, said this week. “So, we’re just in a holding pattern until we get that review back, but they are currently reviewing it. We had confirmation from them (Monday) that they are reviewing it and are in communication with our engineer. Once we get that final approval, we can start moving forward.”

Earlier this week, Smith provided a written update on efforts to reopen the jail. On July 1, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners was told it would take from four to eight weeks to reopen the jail because it would take that long for repairs to be completed and install a new emergency generator to supply power to the jail in case of a power outage at the Beaufort County Courthouse. The jail is in the basement of the courthouse.

The emergency generator has not yet arrived at the courthouse for installation, Smith said.

A wiring problem in a commercial dryer caused the evacuation and closure of the jail in June. Engineers looking into the situation said the dryer issue is part of underlying, potentially dangerous electrical problems in the jail.

The jail was hit with power outages June 6 and June 8, forcing Sheriff Alan Jordan to abandon the facility until the problems are corrected. Beaufort County inmates are being held at other jails or correctional facilities at a cost of roughly $55 per inmate, per day, a cost that doesn’t include extra manpower and transportation costs.

The county has contracted with Power Products & Solutions Inc. out of Charlotte to conduct inspections and perform preventative maintenance activities on the switchgear for the courthouse Aug. 3. This will require a complete shutdown of the electrical systems at the courthouse for one day. After that work, the company will prepare a report and advise of any recommended future work for the switchgear.

 Jim Chrisman, the county’s finance officer is preparing an updated estimate of costs for the project. At this time, according to Smith, the cost of contract work is within the estimate provided and approved by the commissioners at their July 1 meeting.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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