OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – At a Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners meeting on Monday, a county commissioner shared progress she saw at the Oklahoma County Jail during a recent inspection.
“It’s still not a place that a lot of people want to be, but I’ve seen marked improvements,” Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert, District 1, said during Monday’s BOCC meeting.
She shared a long list of improvements at the county jail that she noticed during an inspection back on Dec. 15.
“When I walked in, I immediately noticed that the building smelled better than it normally does. I can tell that the staff had put a lot of effort into cleaning and sanitizing and making sure it’s much cleaner than it typically had been,” Blumert told News 4.
She said she also saw the county’s millions in Cares Act funds that went to the jail at work. That includes improvement to the jail’s sewage system which has helped fix the jail’s long-time flooding problem that’s plagued the building for years.
“So you haven’t seen on the news lately that there is flooding inside the jail because we have invested quite a bit of money in making that not happen as often,” Blumert said.
KFOR has heard from dozens of inmates over the past two years who’ve said they’ve had trouble getting their medications, at times were not fed on time and some showed us large bed bug bites all over their bodies.
Blumert told News 4 she spoke with a few inmates during the inspection and they only had positive things to say.
“I pulled two detainees out and asked each detainee individually, ‘Do you have what you need? Do you have a bed? Do you have your medications? Have you had food at the right times?’” said Blumert. “Both detainees said that they had everything they needed, which I was very happy to hear.”
Late last month, Jail Administrator Greg Williams shared a presentation with the Jail Trust, detailing some of those improvements that Blumert mentioned.
The presentation included before and after pictures, showing a cleaner kitchen since the Jail Trust took over operations of the jail in July of 2020.
It also included pictures of the jail’s new heat shed that allows them to apply extreme heat to bed bug infested items, killing the larva.
You might remember, a plan for a new jail is in the works after a recent vote by the commissioners. However, how the nearly $300 million dollar facility will be funded is still up in the air.
“One of those is going out for a bond vote in 2022, which would not raise taxes. It would keep your taxes the same. It’s extending an expiring bond. Another one of the funding streams that we’ve identified is our funds American Rescue Act funds, and we’re still figuring out if we can in fact use those toward a new building,” Blumert said. “The public finance attorney who helped us, her opinion was that you could use ARPA funds on very specific items inside the jail that really do have to do with COVID and mitigating the spread of diseases.”
The ARPA funds in question total $150 million. The remaining funds would be the bond money that voters would likely vote on in the spring.