County Facilities Manager Ryan Davis and his crew are working with Sheriff Tim Burkhalter, Chief Deputy Tom Caldwell and Maj. Bob Sapp, jail administrator, to install water metering valves in the two larger buildings of the facility.
The devices will allow water to only flow for a predetermined amount of time when a person presses the button on the faucet. They would then have to press it again in order to get more water.
“Currently, as long as they hold that button down, that water will continue to flow,” Davis said. “Inmates, for whatever reason, will just run water and create a very large water bill.”
He said a normal monthly bill for the jail runs in the thousands of dollars, with the New Calhoun Highway facility and the Floyd County Prison on Black’s Bluff Road using the most water out of all of the buildings the county maintains.
Sapp said one scenario that plays out is that an irate inmate will hold the button down and flood a cell.
“These valves are programmable, and we’ll have them as a deterrent more than anything,” Sapp said.
The new valves are also a timely replacement for old and worn out valves that have led to flooding when they break because of pressure in the pipes.
Davis said the new devices can be adjusted to allow water to run for just a few seconds or for as long as the button is pressed. He said they would set it to shut off after a set period of time.
“The thing about it is, this is something a lot of people don’t see and a lot of people don’t realize, but it’s a very large cost to the county,” Davis said.
“In my department, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce that cost and save the taxpayers money. This has been one way, from a plumbing perspective, that we’ve been able to accomplish that.”
Crews began removing the old valves and installing the new ones in one section of the jail at the beginning of February and will work through most of the rest of the year to complete the project.
Davis said the jail has worked with him and his department by moving inmates out of each section where they are installing the meters to make it quicker and safer.
“As of yet, it’s hard to say how the inmates will behave with them,” he said. “They could be real persistent and keep pressing the button over and over, but other jails have found that these produce a significant savings.”
Sapp said that because of the harsh environment in the jail that is brought on by certain types of people held there — and the fact that utilities run around the clock — they are looking to renovate the entire infrastructure of the facility.
“We constantly have to stay on top of repairs,” Sapp said. If we don’t then we come up with a throwaway facility, … and I don’t think taxpayers would like that.”
He said they are also trying to be environmentally conscious as they move forward with renovations.
“It is a large facility, and we want to be as green as we can be,” Sapp said. “All of the things we are doing are with that in mind.”