SIDNEY — The new intake area at the Shelby County Jail is nearly complete. Final inspections are being completed this week and it should be ready to process inmates the week of Oct. 12.
“I’d like to thank the Shelby County Commissioners for their forward thinking for this project,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart during his weekly interview. “The new intake area will last the jail for decades to come. It will help us do our job, protect the inmates and start incarcerating inmates again.”
The decision for the expansion of the intake area, said Lenhart, was made to prevent drugs from getting into the air handling system of the jail.
If an inmate dropped a packet of drugs — the size of a Sweet ‘N Low packet — could put the jail out of commission if it got into the air handling system
He said dispatch would be shut down, no road crews could work, office staff wouldn’t be able to work and no inmates could be processed into the jail.
“Darke County Jail had this happen,” said Lenhart. An person being booked into the jail dropped a capsule and the drug went into the air handling system. It took approximately $100,000 to clean it up. Inmates had to be moved to other jails — including the Shelby County Jail. It took two to three months to clean up the jail and its air handling system.
“Since then (project started), the virus occurred,” said Lenhart. “So the timing of the new intake area is also good for this.
“Without this (new intake area), we could be facing lawsuits and we’d have to house our inmates someplace else,” said Lenhart.
The new intake area, said Sgt. Karla Pleiman, has its own air handling system.
“There are five holding cells,” said Pleiman. “We now have two booking areas, both of which have computers. We have a body scanning room and a processing room where the inmates take showers and get dressed. There’s also a utility room. It’s (new intake area) a duplicate of our current booking area.”
Pleiman said there are three standard cells, which hold one inmate, and two extra large cells which can hold up to three inmates. Three of the cells are used for male prisoners and two cells are used for female prisoners.
All inmates are held at the intake area until they have been processed and then transferred into general population. The cells can also be used for precautionary isolation of 14 days in response to COVID-19.
Lenhart said they had one delay in the project — getting the jail doors.
“The doors are only built by one company in Georgia,” said Lenhart. “Our project was being held up because the doors were not being built.”
Lenhart found out the company was building doors for bigger projects around the world.
“I have a friend who is a US Marshall — John Cary Buttick — who helped us out,” said Lenhart. “He called the company’s owner and asked him to help us out. We went from the bottom of the list to the top of the list and we got our doors.”
Final inspections of the new intake area are taking place this week. The area will be ready to be used next week.
“This has been quite a journey this summer to keep the project online,” said Lenhart. “We’ve hit some bumps in the road but the staff and Chief Deputy Jim Frye, Sgt. Carla Pleiman and Lt. Cori Steiner have done a terrific job of keeping this online.”
Lenhart said his safety tip for the week is “to stay out of my jail.”
He added that the coronavirus has not entered the jail.
“A lot of state, federal and county jails can’t say that,” said Lenhart. “Thanks to Team Health, Dr. Fred Hausman and the nurses who have kept it out.”
The cost of the project was $1.6 million, said Lenhart, of which some came out of taxpayer money. The general contractor for the project is Brumbaugh Construction. The consultant is K2M Design.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.