The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs this month awarded the Calhoun County Commission $20,000 to help update the county jail’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system.
It’s a grant with “great timing” for the county, said Gloria Floyd, Calhoun County’s grant manager.
“I was told by the county administrator, Ken Joiner, to start looking for anything to upgrade the system,” Floyd said. “We had already done some repairs, but it was clear within a couple months we were going to have to replace most of those units.”
ADECA is providing $20,000 of the grant from funds from the U.S. Department of Energy, with the county matching an additional $10,000. The upgrade must be complete before Sept. 29.
Floyd said it’s unclear when the system will get the overhaul, as the county still needs to solicit bids from contractors, but she expects work to get under way before the summer.
The sooner the work gets done, the better, said Calhoun County Chief Deputy Matthew Wade. According to Wade, there’s never been a full upgrade to the jail’s air and ventilation system in the building’s 27-year history.
“It’s a big expense and as it ages, you have to spend more to update it. That’s just life,” Wade said. “It’s especially true for a jail where the occupants aren’t really keeping care of its items.”
Taking care of the inmates is, however, state law, Wade said, and one of the reasons the jail needs an overhaul to its current air system.
“Some people say they don’t want us to spend money on cooling the inmates off,” Wade said. “My response to that is, if we open the windows, it’s hard to keep them in.”
But the good news is, the cost of the new system will significantly reduce the upkeep of heating and cooling the jail, Wade said. Upkeep for the current ventilation system was budgeted at close to $160,000 for 2013, Wade said — a number he expects to see go down with newer, more efficient units.
Floyd said it’s unclear how much money the county will save with the new units, but under state law, the jail is required to keep strict records.
“We’ll know by the end of the year how much money we saved,” she said.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.