MIAMI —The Ottawa County jail will remain closed and off limits to prisoners until fire marshals, jail inspectors and insurance adjustors are all satisfied that the items on their “to do” specification lists have been completed properly and to code, which could take considerable time.
That announcement was made at the regular meeting of the county commissioners in Miami Monday, Nov. 4.
In the meantime, the county is going to be assessed the daily costs to house inmates from here at the Tulsa County jail facilities after Nov. 8, the last day the insurance provider, the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma (ACCO) will accept any additional claims associated with the electrical fire that closed the facility Oct. 19 and necessitated the evacuation of 97 inmates.
According to District Attorney Kenny Wright, the standard rate charged by the Tulsa County jail for housing inmates from other counties is $69 a day, but he hopes to negotiate a lower rate, especially if Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies continue to personally guard the transferred prisoners in Tulsa.
ACCO has served 231 county commissioners in all 77 Oklahoma counties since 1981 as a clearinghouse for services designed to meet the needs of its member counties.
Ottawa County undersheriff Dan Cook reported that while the fire marshals and jail inspector have pointed out some of the more obvious issues that have to be corrected or repaired, they have yet to provide comprehensive lists of everything that will be required before the jail can reopen.
What is known at this point is that the roof at the jail still has to be replaced and continues to leak heavily during every rain, which has led to black mold in the jail that will have to be remediated.
Commissioner Russell Earls offered the opinion that it may be a year before the roof can be replaced and that measures to patch the leaks may have to suffice for now.
He also stressed that the fire suppression system at the jail will have to be repaired, as it failed to turn on when the electrical fire in the ceiling occurred.
Also at issue are exposed wires and boxes that the inspectors have said will have to be hidden and sealed so that they are not accessible to inmates.
Lastly, the repairs from the damage caused by the fire itself — and the water used to extinguish it — will have to be made and pass inspection, including power washing, sheet rocking and painting the affected areas.
Cook told commissioners that getting the inmates back to the jail and cutting their housing costs is a priority. Earls wholeheartedly agreed, as did commissioners Chad Masterson and Mike Furnas.
In other matters, commissioners heard a report from Assessor Becky Smith that the county property tax statements are being prepared for mailing, a month ahead of schedule compared to last year.