The Bradley County Commission was “jailed” for a brief time Tuesday afternoon as Sheriff Eric Watson and his officers took members on a tour of the Justice Center.
Exactly what the commissioners saw was summed up in one sentence by Commissioner Howard Thompson, “You’all need some maintenence — bad.”
The center, which was opened in 2004, is showing significant wear and tear, especially when it comes to dealing with excess moisture and leaks.
Watson told the commissioners the point of the afternoon’s tour was “not politics or finger pointing.”
“We walked in the place on Sept. 1 and saw some things we could not believe,” Watson said. “There’s a lot of mildew and there’s offices we can’t even use because it’s gotten so bad there’s mildew all over the walls.”
Watson told commissioners they were going to see “something that will surprise you.”
“I don’t know how we got here. I’m not pointing fingers. All I’m doing is asking your help to fix it,” Watson said. “It’s really troublesome a $16 million facility has gotten this way.”
He noted there also had been walls taken down “that I’m not sure you ever approved” and showed doorways that had been sealed with sheetrock, but never painted.
“This is a $16 million facility. There have been walls taken out here and it’s sad you have this facility and hire [nonprofessionals] to do the work,” Watson said. “Instead of putting the metal around the doors, they used 2-by-4’s.”
He said there should be more pride taken in the center, much as his officers will do with their cars which will “be washed.”
“We’re going to look professional in all we do,” Watson said.
Senior Lt. Alan Walsh said he had been reporting the issues with the center “for years.”
“I just don’t know if they ever got to you,” Walsh said.
Walsh pointed out the situations to the commissioners as they made their walk-through of the facility.
He noted problems with mold and mildew associated with the center’s HVAC system.
There is also the space where meal trays are washed that constantly has water on the floors.
Walsh also showed where there are problems with shower areas both in the inmate areas as well as those used by officers.
Watson said another major issue facing the department is a shortage of marked patrol cars. Of the cars the BCSO does have, he said, “They’re in pretty bad shape, with paint missing off two or three of them.”
He said at least three of the cars had over 200,000 miles, but added, “That’s always been an issue.”
Watson said the Commission could consider possibly doing another leasing program.
“But, four or five cars a year just [won’t] get it,” he said. “That’s something we can work together on.”
Watson said there are four cars in the budget, but asked for any more help that could be given in that area, “because within the next 90 days, we’re going to have to do something.”
He said having the marked cars shows there are more officers on the street and “it’s safer in your neighborhood when [people] see a marked patrol car.”
“The more patrol cars out there with visibility, the safer people feel,” Watson said.