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Nash board OKs new jail cameras

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

NASHVILLE — Nash County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal from Johnson Controls for $182,500 to install 55 additional security cameras at the Nash County Detention Center.

The detention center has struggled in recent months because of two jail breaks and numerous fires and assaults within the facilities. It now is the subject of a lawsuit related to conditions within the jail. And Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone repeatedly has stated that the jail needs more upgrades and personnel to address the issues.

Jonathan L. Boone, director of public utilities and facilities for Nash County, presented the proposals to the board. The only other proposal received was from Cornerstone Detention Products for $359,573.

Boone said that a working group has been meeting since May 2019 to evaluate projects related to improvements at the jail.

“Commissioners approved an appropriation of $500,000 in the fiscal year 2020 Capital Budget to fund these improvements,” Boone said. “This was in addition to the $120,000 approved for plumbing improvements at the facility and $125,000 approved to modernize the elevator at the Nash County Sheriff’s Office.”

The money for the security cameras will come from the $500,000 pot, Boone said.

Board Chairman Robbie Davis said the efforts of staff members saved a lot of money on the project.

“I will say that I appreciated that our staff insisted that we get multiple pricing on this project because it certainly paid off. We are really paying about half of what we originally would have paid and actually, all the parties involved, including the Sheriff’s Office, agree that it is a better system than the other system would have been at a higher price,” Davis said. “Even though this took some extra time, it was time well-spent.”

Boone said the cameras should significantly improve surveillance at the jail.

“There are currently about 66 cameras. This would add an additional 55 cameras to the system,” Boone said. “These cameras will be primarily focused on the residential areas such as the dorms and the exercise yard where we have had some incidents. It will also address some blind spots in the facility.”

When asked about whether these cameras would interfere with other improvements being made to the jail facilities, Boone said he already had discussed these issues with the sheriff and some staff members at the detention facility.

“The things we have talked about prioritizing are locks and security cameras, which have been a high priority for the sheriff because he has security-related concerns, not only for the employees but also for the inmates,” he said. “These also address areas where they currently do not have surveillance capabilities. With their current manpower limitations, they feel like having additional cameras would be beneficial from an operational standpoint.”

Boone said they also are looking at other improvements to the detention center including upgrades to the kitchen, lighting and the HVAC systems.

“Safety is a very important issue and one that the sheriff has been very passionate about,” Boone said.

Davis said that Stone consistently has ranked the security cameras as his top priority in the list of improvements to be made to the facility.

“He set the priorities for us at an earlier meeting,” Davis said.

Commissioner Wayne Outlaw asked that the staff present county commissioners with a running total of the amount that is being spent on the Nash County Detention Center since the initial jail break in March. Five inmates escaped in that incident.

“I know we have spent a lot of money and we keep spending money,” Outlaw said. “But I keep hearing a few people saying that this money is not well spent — that we should be building a new jail. So I would like to see if we are meeting the priorities of the sheriff and how much total money we are spending on the jail.”

Boone said the amount spent so far, including the cost of the security camera contract, is about $300,000, but an official tally will be presented later.

“I am OK with the spending if the sheriff is OK with it and the spending is being used to fix things that need to be fixed,” Outlaw said. “But we are not going to spend all this money and then hear that all this money has been wasted because we need to build a new jail.”

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