Estimates of the ideal number and types of maintenance workers for the Oklahoma County Jail grabbed observers’ attention at the Detention Center Transition Committee meeting Tuesday.
The committee has been tasked with the complex job of working out the details of Sheriff P.D. Taylor turning over control of the Oklahoma County Detention Center to the recently formed Jail Trust.
Keith Monroe, Director of Facilities for Oklahoma County was asked by committee Chair David Hooten to state what might be the ideal maintenance worker staff for the aging 13-story facility at 201 N. Shartel in Oklahoma City.
He said that “from a mechanical standpoint” the facility in its current condition would need to cover “ten mechanical floors”:
15 mechanical and HVAC workers (five per shift)
15 plumbers (five per shift)
12 utility personnel (four per shift)
4 people on the communications team
3 electricians (one per shift)
3 safety coordinators (one per shift)
3 managers (one per shift)
That would come to 56 trained people for maintenance and support operations.
The facility right now is running with 22 positions filled out of 29 budgeted.
The difference between the budgets for the ideal number and the current number is dramatic.
According to Sheriff’s spokesperson Mark Myers, the current budget for 29 positions is $1.2 million compared to $4.1 million for the estimated ideal number.
“I look at this from a purely mechanical standpoint and what it takes to keep those systems up and operating and the technical manpower to solve those problems …,” Monroe told the committee.
“And I wasn’t trying to open a can of worms or anything,” he said. “I want to convey as much information as we can so we can successfully do what we need.”
Hooten told the committee that he asked for the estimates for “institutional memory” and for future discussions.
After the meeting, Free Press asked Hooten if everything could be done in the next five weeks to execute the transition successfully.
“I don’t have any timeline. We’re going to do this one as quickly as we can. But as far as when that date is, it’s not up to us,” said Hooten. “I know there has been a date floated but that’s a nonexistent date in my world.”
“We have to do this correctly,” he continued. “It’s going to take longer than another five weeks. There’s no physical way for this to happen that quickly.”
When we asked Jail Trust Chair Tricia Everest if she thought they can be ready in five weeks she also didn’t think it could happen that fast.
“The sheriff has stated that, and that was his opinion,” said Everest. “But the reality is you can’t transfer something so important to seven volunteers and two elected officials without anything else.”
Not ready yet
Everest pointed out that the Jail Trust still doesn’t have any money or bank accounts yet.
So, when they selected who they would like to have as the new jail administrator, it was just a statement that they wanted Greg Williams, the current deputy chief of operations for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
And he also agreed that he wants to go to work in the position once it is solidified.
“We didn’t even have any money to offer a package for him, yet,” Everest said. “But, we are thrilled that we have selected Greg Williams to be our executive officer first.”
She pointed out that the seven members of the Trust aren’t paid and are strictly volunteers. She described Greg Williams as “our eighth volunteer” until money is in place and they can hire him as the jail administrator.
Danny Honeycutt, general counsel for the Sheriff’s office, talked to Free Press after the meeting.
We asked what some of the biggest challenges are right now to make the transition work.
“I think it’s going to take a lot of communication,” said Honeycutt. “In the first five months of this, I think the communication has been lacking.”
“Things are starting to actually move forward again. So we’re a little bit off high center.”
He said that the “biggest struggle” over past months has been making sure that current jail employees do not lose their county benefits.
Honeycutt said he believes they are far closer now to developing a policy that would allow those employees to transfer to the Trust and continue on with their county benefits.
The concept is that the Trust would be one of the county employers, so employees would be transferring from one county employer to another.
Insurance deductibles and years of service would transfer over under the current concept being discussed.
“If it plays out like it’s being designed to play out, then the employees aren’t going to feel any difference,” said Honeycutt.
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