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Jail will be cooler now

A new 15-ton $19,000 air conditioner will soon keep Lawrence County Jail inmates cool.

Saturday, August 14, 1999

A new 15-ton $19,000 air conditioner will soon keep Lawrence County Jail inmates cool.

County commissioners took the purchase action Thursday in an emergency measure, choosing the best estimate – from Heaberlin Heating and Air – instead of seeking bids.

Equipment or services costing more than $15,000 must be advertised for bid by counties, unless an emergency exists.

This summer’s heat led to health problems among inmates recently. State officials ordered the county to make changes, which is considered an emergency situation under state law, commissioners said.

"I think we need to get this done now," commissioner George Patterson said.

Built in the 1970s, the jail has never had air conditioning and relies upon air vents in the roof to exchange stale air, Lawrence County Sheriff Department Chief Deputy Jim Cochran said.

The department, which operates the jail, took about 11 prisoners in July to the emergency room because of a fungal heat rash.

Department officials said the rashes were not serious and inmates are following doctors’ orders.

But health inspectors and state regulators advised the department that action was needed, Cochran said.

Commissioners voted July 29 to find an air conditioner and purchase ice for inmates as temporary relief from temperatures that had soared near 100 degrees for weeks.

The new air conditioner will be installed as soon as possible, using the jail’s existing ductwork, Cochran said.

Also Thursday, commissioners agreed to seek grant funding or other means of helping Elizabeth Township Volunteer Fire Department repair a truck.

Elizabeth fire chief Dale Waugh made the request, asking for any funding help to repair one of the department’s truck’s water tanks.