Half of the Ozark County Jail is without water; Sheriff had to move several inmates to other counties

The Ozark County Jail was without water over the weekend, and most of the jail remained without water Monday due to plumbing problems in the building.

The sheriff’s department released a statement on its Facebook page over the weekend, explaining that the prison was mostly without water and several prisoners were moved to other facilities during the crisis. Officials said the plumbing issue would result in inmates’ in-person visits being suspended on Sunday until the problem could be fixed. The Ozark County Times toured the prison Monday and learned that only a few toilets and showers in cells were working at the time, but most of the prison was effectively closed due to internal plumbing problems.

“We have a couple of toilets working in some of the pods,” Deputy Seth Miller said.

Miller explained that the prison has had installation problems for some time and that they recently replaced several water heater elements.

“It wasn’t hot water at first,” Miller said. “Then we swapped out the elements and got hot water back, and now it’s basically no water.”

Miller said none of the public or staff toilets were working Monday morning.

“We had to go to Bullseye or my house to use the restroom,” Miller said.

Sheriff Cass Martin said a plumber will look at the problem today (Wednesday, October 19).

The plumbing issues pretty much all stem from a water softener system that was bypassed. Hard city water contains limescale that wreaks havoc on plumbing systems and water heaters.

Sheriff’s officials said the water softener system was bypassed some time ago because the system had 1-inch water inlet heads when it was installed and was fed by 2-inch water supply pipes.

“So they narrowed it down to 1 inch lines, and if that goes through [water softener] system doesn’t generate enough water pressure to run the prison,” Miller said.

Officials said they thought the size of a prison facility required a water softener system with 2-inch supply heads.

Miller said he estimated the cost to fix the immediate problem at around $3,000 and he wasn’t sure what it would cost to repair or replace the water softener to fix the problems. “Probably another $5,000 or $6,000,” he said.

Presiding County Commissioner John Turner said the prison’s water softener system was installed in 2016 at a cost of about $3,500.

“If it wasn’t done right or needed a different system, someone should have said something,” Turner said Monday during the county commissioners’ regular weekly meeting.

Western District Commissioner Layne Nance said he wished all commissioners would tour the aging prison and help address the problems.

“Our job is to tour the county’s facilities and that includes the prison,” Nance said. “I’m not throwing anyone under the bus but I’m the only one who went and looked at the jail,” Nance added.

The sanitation problem is just another by-product of an aging prison facility left in a state of disrepair due to a lack of money in the law enforcement budget.

Turner said the jail also needed a new roof, and a recent grand jury inspection pointed to a laundry list of discrepancies at the facility.

lack of funding

Turner said the state recently paid the county a balance of the prisoner’s per diem allowance, the cost of housing state prisoners at the facility who had gone unpaid for several months. The money goes straight to the sheriff’s department budget.

“So the sheriff’s department has money in their account,” Turner said, noting they currently had a balance of nearly $200,000. “If the system needs fixing, then they have the money, they have to get it fixed,” Turner said. “If I keep getting upset about this and nobody fixes it, I’ll call someone and we’ll have it fixed.”

Turner reiterated his disappointment at the state legislature’s inaction on increasing the prisoner’s daily rate.

“The statute says they’re supposed to pay $37 a day per prisoner, and they only pay $22,” Turner said. “It’s the same as when I first came into office eight years ago,” Turner said.

Martin said his department recently received $63,000 from the state to reimburse prisoners’ daily allowances. “I thought maybe we had a little breathing room in our budget, and then this plumbing thing happened,” the sheriff said. Martin said he was unaware that the water softener had been bypassed and that it was done before he began his tenure as sheriff.

An Ozark County grand jury recently toured county facilities and reported their findings and recommendations, which included several problems at the prison, such as an inadequate kitchen, malfunctioning smoke or heat detectors, broken and missing security glass, faulty electronic security doors, and understaffing. among other.

“Ultimately, we are all responsible for prison,” Nance said.

The commissioners placed a 0.5-cent sales tax issue in the November vote that would solely fund law enforcement and the county jail’s operations.

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