Noble County officials considering new jail

Sunday, April 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PERRY, Okla. (AP) _ Because of increasing expenses and shrinking bed space, Noble County officials are considering building a new jail.

In December, inmates used underwear to clog the jail's toilets, causing $30,000 in damage.

The jail is located on the top floor of the county courthouse and the flooding damaged carpets, ceiling and equipment in offices on the floors below.

``I've been here 20 years and I can't remember how many times that's happened,'' Sheriff Jerry Cook said.

The county is just now finishing the cleanup and replacement process, said Dean Courtright, chairman of the board of commissioners.

``Everything has to be sterilized. The floor has to be sterilized and sealed. All that costs money,'' Courtright said.

Cook and county commissioners are considering replacing the jail, which Cook said is starting to ``nickel and dime'' the county budget to death.

``It's still safe. We still pass inspection. We just don't have enough space,'' he said.

The 19-bed jail, built in 1915, regularly holds 14 to 18 inmates at a time. The jail also only has two beds for female inmates.

Cook said the state jail inspector recently warned him the jail was exceeding its bed number limit. The jail had four females in the two-bed female cell on the day of the inspection.

Expenses are increasing as well. The jail recently spent between $3,000 and $4,000 for a hood on the kitchen stove.

Cook also has had to scrape together money several times in the last 15 years for small improvement projects.

Some of those included an electric-powered smoke alarm system for $6,000 and a sprinkler system and fire escape on the outside of the building for $65,000.

Cook said the best solution is probably a new jail, so the county can avoid future problems with the state Health Department and the state fire marshal.

``We're not being threatened to be shut down, but it's going to be here one of these days,'' he said.

Courtright said commissioners will meet with an architect Monday to discuss possible costs for a new jail.

He said he would recommend a countywide sales tax so that property owners alone don't have to pay for the jail.