“It was…a waterfall in the middle of our office,” says Detective Sergeant Shane Miller, describing one of several occasions where he has come into work at the Lee County Jail to find his office flooded, just one of the many problems employees at the jail say they deal with on a regular basis.
Built in 1970, cracks in the decades-old infrastructure allow water and raw sewage to leak from the pipes in the jail, down through the floor and onto the desks of those working in the administrative offices below.
“So every night we cover (our desks) with plastic, just in case stuff does come down, nothing gets destroyed, and we don’t lose viable files,” says Miller.
The Lee County Jail has failed its last 8 inspections due to infractions like the inability to fit a stretcher through the front door, and poor ventilation for prisoners in the summer.
“So if it’s 100 degrees outside, with a humidity of 95 percent, it’s 105 degrees in here, with 100 percent humidity,” says Jail Superintendent, Jack Skrogstad.
Aside from a drain in the floor with a flush valve attached to it, the jail’s only holding cell has no bathroom — leaving employees to risk taking potentially violent inmates out of the cell.
“So, I have to get them out of a secured area, and walk them to a bathroom. And then, get them back in here,” says Skrogstad.
All this has prompted Sheriff John Simonton to introduce a .5% sales tax to the March 15th primary ballot. It’s expected to raise $1.1 million a year.
If the tax isn’t approved, the jail may shut down all together — forcing the Lee County to send its inmates to other jails. Simonton says that will end up costing the county more than a million dollars.
“I would rather encourage the voters to take a look at this tax hard because we will make that investment in Lee County, rather than that investment in another county,” says Sheriff Simonton.