Jail seeks $1.6M to fix dated door electronics

County commissioners to consider upgrading system after officials say increasing failures pose security risks.

MOUNT CLEMENS — Macomb County doesn’t exactly have a ton of cash on hand these days, but officials say they’re willing to spend when it comes to keeping inmates safely behind bars.

The electronics that control the cell and passageway doors at the Macomb County Jail in Mount Clemens have become unreliable. Some of the equipment dates back to the facility’s construction in the mid-1950s.

System faults and failures have become increasingly common in recent years, according to officials at the Sheriff’s Office.

To date, system problems have not resulted in any accidents or injuries, but the potential is there, according to officials. That’s why the jail is seeking $1.6 million to upgrade the system.

“Any time you have a system like that, there is the potential for danger,” said Michelle Sanborn, an administrator at the jail. “We’ve had several incidents in the last several years where one door has failed, or a section of doors has failed or even entire floors.”

Because of the age of the equipment involved — Sanborn described the system as obsolete — county workers have attempted to locate and save spare parts whenever possible. But Sheriff Mark Hackel no longer feels that Band-Aid approach is enough.

“… this project relates directly to the safety and security of out staff, facility and prisoners alike,” Hackel wrote in a letter to commissioners on the county Justice and Public Safety Committee.

“These doors provide security as well as emergency and routine ingress/egress for prisoners and staff.”

Macomb County is in the midst of its toughest budget season in recent memory. For the past few years, the county has operated at a deficit — annually hovering around $10 million. For 2009, however, budget officials estimated that figure would reach $30 million.

That forecast has a set off budget meetings in which commissioners have been forced to consider a variety of options, including closing the county’s nursing home and laying off hundreds of workers. Given the potential for chaos at the prison, though, officials appear ready to upgrade the door system.

Members of the Justice and Public Safety Committee have approved the expenditure and sent it to the full Board of Commissioners, which will consider it for final approval at the next meeting on Thursday. “Commissioners seem to be aware that this was something needed for the safety of the people out there,” said Commissioner Keith Rengert, R-Richmond, who chairs the justice committee. “From every indication I have, it will pass (the full board).”

To pay for the yearlong upgrade, Rengert said the county will likely have to use bond funding.

source: http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080923/METRO03/809230370/1014/rss03

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