Winnebago County Jail Has Continuing Issues

Two years ago, Winnebago County built a state of the art jail facility which also houses the 911 Dispatch Center and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office. During that time, the employees in the facility have continued to deal with construction issues that have not been fixed.

John Hanson of Midwest Construction Consultants who headed up the construction of the facility has been contacted by the county on numerous occasions according to the county Director of Building Maintenance Kevin Williams. He says that not much has been done to rectify the problems at the jail. One of those issues is an automatic shut-off of water to holding cells in the jail. Solenoids are needed to electronically shut off the water in case of an emergency. According to the outgoing Winnebago County Jail Administrator Rick Caldwell, there are solenoids that have not been installed.

In the first year of operation, jailers noticed a burning smell similar to a burnt light ballast. County maintenance was able to locate an electrical short in a hall closet. They were able to determine that the power switched for the valve shutoffs had been disconnected and were left hanging live in the closet. Several more of these same issues were found throughout the facility.

Williams has priced the 4-inch solenoids that are needed in the jail.

The Winnebago Supervisors did not like the idea of purchasing the solenoids because the county had already purchased them at the original construction price of the jail.

Hanson allegedly told Winnebago County Sheriff Dave Peterson not to contact the contractors because Hanson wanted to be the person who dealt with them according to Caldwell. Hanson did say that they would try to work something out, but Caldwell stated that nothing has happened so far.

Doors in the county jail are also another sticking point. According to a list obtained by KIOW News, at least six doors have issues. Two of these will go on alarm because they show that they are open. However, the doors are actually closed and locked. Two others claim they are not locked, but in reality are. A fifth door will show about 50% of the time that it is locked. That door stays locked continuously.

A sixth door will take anywhere from 5 minutes to 4 hours to register that it’s closed and locked. Jailers routinely have to check and double-check each door for security reasons.

Caldwell said that attempts have been made to resolve the alarm issues with the doors.

The county may refer the issue to the County Attorney Kelsey Beenken in order to take possible legal action.





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