Did Douglas County Sheriff’s Department Create Jail Mold Emergency?

Why did a leaky pipe cost taxpayers more than $305,000?

From Staff Reports: Douglas County Taxpayers Coalition

www.douglastaxes.com

Douglasville GA: On August 25, 2008, Chief Deputy Stan Copeland of the Douglas County Georgia Sheriff’s Department went before the board of commissioners seeking more than $300,000 for a temporary housing unit for 25 female inmates displaced by an alleged “mold emergency” in their jail dormitory.

Copeland said they discovered a leak in the ceiling, apparently coming from the kitchen above the dorm. He told the commissioners the concrete floor may have deteriorated and they could move the kitchen outside the jail for a cost of $1 million.

At their regular business meeting, the board of commissioners unanimously approved a temporary housing unit which was, a few months later, erected next to the jail at a cost of $305,232 for a three year lease.

On August 29, 2008, the Douglas County Sentinel newspaper reported the situation with a screaming headline, ‘Mold invades jail’.

Leaders of the Douglas County Taxpayers Coalition (DCTC), a taxpayers’ advocacy group, investigated the situation.  Douglas County Commissioner Mike Mulcare admitted to James Bell, director of DCTC, that county commissioners never inspected the jail to see what conditions actually existed before approving the $305,000 expenditure. A Sentinel reporter admitted to DCTC that he was not permitted to see the mold conditions at the jail and that he was told the room had been sealed off.

According to documents obtained by DCTC through the Georgia Open Records Act, the sheriff’s department did not attempt any clean up or repairs of the leak until after February 2009, leaving the dormitory ventilation system sealed for six months with cardboard and tape.

According to the inspection report conducted by the firm Conestoga-Rovers & Associates (CRA) on January 15, 2009, six months after the leak was detected, the inspectors observed a small leak from a drain pipe and a small puddle of standing water on the concrete floor of the dormitory.

Photos of the room show some water stains and some surface mold. This can be expected in a non-ventilated room sealed for six months with a leaky drain pipe and a puddle of water on the floor.

CRA’s recommendations, which cost taxpayers $3600, were to repair the pipe leak, replace the sheet rock and clean the affected areas of the dormitory with mild detergent, 10% bleach solution and a scrub brush.

James Bell, director of DCTC, believes the sheriff’s staff used the leaky pipe situation to create screaming headlines to justify the need for a new $150 million jail, which voters have rejected twice since 2006 in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) referendums.

“Based on our investigation, we believe the sheriff and his staff concocted this alleged emergency to bolster their claim that a new jail is needed. Rather than taking action and making simple plumbing repairs, they waited six months to do anything”, Bell said. “We believe $305,000 could have been saved if the sheriff had taken action to correct a simple leak. A leaky pipe does not justify bulldozing the jail and spending $150 million to build a new one.”

The 1500 bed prison issue is once again on the November 3, 2009 SPLOST/Bond ballot for $150 million sales/use tax and a $120 million general obligation bond, plus interest.

The sheriff’s office has yet to show  requested records indicating repairs have been made.

Sheriff Miller should give county taxpayers an explanation why it took so long to inspect the room, fix a leak and clean the affected area, assuming repairs have been made.

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