County approves emergency repairs at jail for estimated $502K

Cascade County Commissioners voted 2-0 Friday afternoon to make emergency repairs at the Cascade County Adult Detention Center.

The Cascade County Sheriff’s Office said their system that operates door locks throughout the jail is malfunctioning and failing.

CCSO officials got two proposals ranging from $502,000 to $550,000 for the repairs.

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Commissioners voted to pursue the lower option with Corvinus Group to replace the existing security electronics controls systems.

Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson voted to move forward. Commissioner Jane Weber was absent.

CCSO didn’t anticipate the repairs becoming an immediate critical need during the current fiscal year so Sheriff Jesse Slaughter and Undersheriff Cory Reeves said they’re working with their department accountant and the county budget officer to identify the funds to pay for the estimate $502,000 plus an estimated $80,000 in contingency funds for the project.

A second bid came from Security Automation Systems for $550,000. That company would have subcontracted the work to Cascade Electric and recommended an additional $100,000 in contingency funding.

Reeves said that Corvinus specialized in the jail control systems and was the lower bid.

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In their proposal, Corvinus wrote that they’d remove the existing system and replace them with the industry standard Omron PLC and Indusoft HMI platforms, which are touch screens.

The control panels located at the five existing control stations at the jail would be removed, according to Corvinus’ proposal.

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For security reasons, CCSO asked that media not specifically detail the critical deficiencies with the current system that has begun failing, creating security concerns at the jail.

Slaughter and Reeves said the system repairs were on their list of capital improvements and was identified as a priority when they took office at the beginning of the year.

In April, a consultant was in town and Slaughter said he came to the jail and identified the control system as a serious need.

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Slaughter said they didn’t know the system would critically fail so quickly, which promoted the need for Friday’s emergency county commission meeting.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said it was a “highly abnormal meeting for us,” since the commission prefers to conduct business at normally scheduled meetings or give the public at least 48 hours for special meetings. He said state law allows an exemption for public notice in emergency situations.

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“These are some safety issues that need to be dealt with,” Briggs said of the jail repairs.

Reeves said they had hoped they could do the repairs in phases, but the system requires an all or nothing upgrade.

Reeves said the jail also uses a HIKVISION system that he and Slaughter were unaware had been banned in the U.S. by an August 2018 federal law because the system is Chinese made and has backdoors built in.

According to the federal legislation that Congress approved last year, the software is banned in U.S. government systems and government funded contracts. The ban does not yet extend to local governments or further, though the Trump Administration is considering blacklisting the company, according to a recent New York Times article.

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Briggs said the commission was aware of that law and had to replace other county systems because of it, but hadn’t been aware of the issue at CCSO.

“The fact that the software has been banned for half a year should have been brought to the commission’s attention,” he said.

Reeves and Slaughter said that the Corvnius system upgrade may not be compatible with CCSO’s other existing system that includes HIKVISION. The Corvinus proposal says they’ll try to work around it, but cannot guarantee the systems will be compatible.

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Reeves and Slaughter said they’re hoping that portion of their systems for surveillance cameras and DVR won’t need to be replace immediately and can be factored into the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Reeves and Slaughter said they have some funds in the department reserves and have some savings from position vacancies but will have to adjust their budget to address the needed repairs.

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The county information technology director told commissioners during Friday’s meeting that the replacement cost for that system is an estimated $1,200 a piece with 15-20 units in the jail.

The Corvinus team offered to come to town and attempt to troubleshoot the system in the meantime, but that would be an added expense for the county, according to CCSO.

Briggs said they’d leave that decision up to CCSO, but personally believed it would be wise.

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Slaughter and Reeves said they’ve developed a capital improvement plan to catch up on maintenance needs that had been overlooked and are working closely with the county public works department on that plan.

They said public works hadn’t been allowed into the jail for years before, which prevented them from doing preventative maintenance or conducting assessments of the facility to identify potential maintenance needs.