Water woes have county jail seeking fix

By Lew K. Cohn

Managing Editor

Burnet Bulletin

Burnet County jail administrators want to install a new control system at the facility that would prevent inmates from wasting water, which results in thousands of dollars in extra costs every year.

Before they can do that, though, they will have to deal with another, more pressing water-related issue — repairs to the jail's 88 showers, where resin failure has caused the shower pan to separate from the wall, allowing water to get into the wall and create damage.

The issue was brought up by jail administrator Capt. Matt Kimbler and County Judge James Oakley at the Tuesday, Oct. 22, Burnet County Commissioners Court meeting. Kimbler said the showers appear to have been installed with a design flaw when the 587-bed jail was built in 2008 through a bond issue.

“The way it is installed has created a weak point where the water penetrates into the wall, causing the resin to fail and the shower pan to break away,” Kimbler said.

The issue is serious enough that the Commission on Jail Standards wrote Burnet County up for the condition during the jail's last inspection, making it a compliance issue that must be addressed.

Kimbler said he has spoken to a vendor to get an estimate and was told it would depend on how many showers their crews could work on at a time. If they can perform work on 12 showers at a time, the cost would be about $150,000 to $160,000 to replace the shower pans and perform the repairs.

If the jail can only allow eight showers to be down at a time, it will increase the cost to $198,000 due to the time it will take to finish the work.

Kimbler said the jail also will have to replace a number of large commercial washers and dryers which have reached the end of their lifespans, which would be another large expense that must be overcome.

Oakley said when the county purchased the facility back through certificates of obligation in 2015 at a cost of $14,845,000, it had set aside $750,000 into a reserve fund that would be available to pay for necessary maintenance and other costs.

“We have had to use funds continuously from that account and there has not been a revenue stream coming in to backfill that account,” Oakley said. “A jail is expensive to run and when we took on this building, we had to take on a large number of repairs as well.”

Originally, the court was going to discuss the installation of a retrofitted, computerized system that would regulate and limit water consumption at the jail.

Find the rest of this story in the Wednesday, Oct. 23 issue of the Burnet Bulletin, the newspaper of record for Burnet County. To offer a comment or news tip, email lew@highlandernews.com. To subscribe to the newspaper, call 512-756-6136 or click the "E-Edition" like at the top right-hand corner of the page to subscribe to our online edition.

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