Heat is on, inmates back at jail | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Heat is on, inmates back at jail

Christina Proctor

After nearly six weeks of shuffling prisoners, the El Dorado County Jail’s heating problems are mended. Now the county is looking to recoup its costs.

About 70 inmates were transferred to the Sacramento County Jail on Jan. 15 after heat exchangers failed in one wing. The building has only been in use seven years.

“There are some indications that the control and feedback loops on the system might have been delivered from the factory incorrectly or installed incorrectly,” said Tim McSorley, county facilities manager. “The units are being sent back to the manufacturer, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be successful in getting some of our costs back.”

The repairs to the building carried a price tag of around $41,000, and the Sheriff’s Department spent about $90,000 in relocation expenses, McSorley said.

“I believe we’ll be successful in recouping our losses, even for the Sheriff’s Department. They wouldn’t have had to relocate those prisoners if the heating unit hadn’t failed,” he said.

Heating failures isn’t the first problem the relatively new facility has faced. Last year, due to a combination of design and construction problems, the roof was replaced.

“There was no county expense,” McSorley said. “We were in litigation with the architects and contractors and they did pony up the money to pay for the roof.”

To deal with a lack of jail space, Sheriff Hal Barker said many low-security prisoners were released.

“We began to release people as often as we could,” Barker said. “We went from around 90 prisoners to 20 during the course of the repairs.”

Barker said the number included inmates who had served their time, and others classified as low security.

The lack of low security trustees affected other county departments. Jail trustees are used at the Animal Control Shelter to clean kennels, and on the grounds of the county offices for yard work and snow removal. Capt. Bob Altmeyer said it will take time to replace those workers.

“The jail population will increase slowly as it catches up with our available space. The inmate workers are ones with low security problems, so they were the first to be released. The trustee work will be starting up again, but it will take some time,” Altmeyer said.

By Friday all of the South Shore inmates had been transported back from Sacramento County, Altmeyer said.

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