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$380K planned for safety improvements at Clark County Jail

Clark County plans to borrow nearly $1.2 million to upgrade county facilities and equipment, including replacing a 34-year-old control panel that opens and closes jail doors.

The upgrades will make the jail safer for deputies and inmates, Clark County Administrator Nathan Kennedy said.

Those expenditures include $380,000 to replace the current control panel at the county jail with a new, computer-based, touch-screen panel and an additional $40,000 to purchase a shower trailer that would sit underneath the jail.

The new control panel and other upgrades will be paid for by issuing new bond notes or one-year loans to pay for the projects, Kennedy said.

Kennedy likened the current jail control panel to the one in the 1980 film “Brubaker” starring Robert Redford with large, colored buttons that deputies push to control the doors.

Buildings and maintenance staff has kept the equipment working, but Kennedy said it should have been changed out years ago, Kennedy said.

“My understanding is that they probably do have manual keys on those doors now, but it’s also nice to have them automatically locked if there’s an emergency. And if you’re wrestling with an inmate that’s out of control, you need to be able to lock the doors quickly. If you can’t lock the doors, you could potentially have a breach of security,” he said.

There are currently no known problems with the control panel, Sheriff Gene Kelly said, but county commissioners are taking a proactive approach to upgrade it and the electrical system before an equipment or electrical failure occurs.

“This building was built 34 years ago. It needs upgrades to the wiring and all of the other electronic controls that control the locks,” he said.

The jail is located in the Public Safety Building at 120 N. Fountain Ave. The building, which also houses the Springfield Police Division, was constructed in 1980 and cost $10.2 million. When it was completed, it was called the “most modern” facility in Ohio, according to a fact sheet about the facility.

It currently has 166 inmates and was built to handle about 200 inmates, according to deputies.

The entire electrical system is original, Kelly said.

“If you had a home that was built in the late ’70s, early ’80s, you would probably want to upgrade your own personal wiring and electronic items within your home,” he said. “So that’s what we’re planning to do at the Clark County Jail.”

The current shower trailer underneath the jail will be replaced due to damage to the floors.

The 10-year-old modular unit is currently closed, but previously was used by 60 inmates daily, Kelly said.

“Water comes out and seeps out and rusts, and then the floor is weakened and it needs to be replaced. We have been maintaining it, but it’s getting to the point where it needs to be replaced,” Kennedy said.

The remaining money — about $750,000 — will go toward paying for upgrades that have been made to the Springview Government Center, 3130 E. Main St.

That project includes renovations for appliances, furniture, and phone and data equipment. The total cost of the project is nearly $900,000 due to issues with the HVAC system and other unforeseen problems.

The upgrades were needed to make way for tenants such as the Clark County Soil and Water Conservation District and OSU Extension of Clark County, which have already moved into the building.

The tenants had been in the county’s Agricultural Services Building, which was leased in 2012 to Konecranes, a commercial crane company.

Commissioners are currently negotiating an $800,000 lease-to-own deal with Konecranes that would replace money taken from the county’s rainy day fund and to pay for funds used on the upgrades.

“I appreciated the county commissioners wanting to make upgrades. When it breaks and it goes down that’s too late,” Kelly said.

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