KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
The shower stall at the jail illustrates the dilapitated conditions at the facility.

By KayLynn Roberts-McMurray

The Ely Times

The White Pine County Commission will now have to decide if they are going to remodel the jail or the courthouse.

A special commission meeting was held on Tuesday, June 6, to discuss the outcome of Senate Bill AB40, which was the request for appropriation of $10 million from the Nevada State Legislature to help construct a new jail and courthouse facility.

District Court Judge Steve Dobrescu testified before the Assembly Way and Means Committee but no action was taken.

Chairman of the Commission Richard Howe said, “We did the best that we possibly could, this commission did everything in their power. I’ll speak to however I want right now, I’m not happy about the way they handled this.”

“We in the rurals, not just White Pine, got diddly. I feel like they just kicked the rurals right down the road. They turned their back on the entire rurals, it’s all about Las Vegas and Washoe County.”

Howe spoke about that need for a decision to be made at the next commission meeting on how the money they currently have is going to be spent.

It was very evident that all of the commissioners were frustrated that the Legislature did not take any action on the bill.

Commissioner Shane Bybee said, “I made contact with District Attorney Mike Wheable earlier, and I’d like to see if we can investigate whether we are bound by law to do Ely State Prison trials in our courthouse, and if we’re not, I’d like to see us serve the state with notice that we will no longer will be handling those trials and that will alleviate a lot of concerns about the safety of our courthouse.”

Wheable did not have an answer to that question, but did comment that, that was a pretty good question. Wheable mentioned there were several questions, that would need to be asked, such as what costs the county to take to do those trials? Who would complete jury selection for the state? Who pays for the bailiffs county during the trials?

There will be a lot of research to obtain these answers. Commissioner Carol McKenze seemed frustrated saying “I don’t know that I could choose between the courthouse or the jail.

“Both are in dire need of replacing. I can’t for the life of me understand why the state thinks they shouldn’t help us with this. Even the federal government was telling us, we have to do something about this, and here we sit”.

Both projects are absolutely necessary there’s no doubt about it, but which one of the projects are they going to do? Much has been heard and seen about the security concerns from previous reports.

A tour of the jail solidified its run down and dilapidated condition. The facility is equipped to hold eight female and 32 male inmates, and on the average there are 40 inmates housed at the jail on a daily basis.

At times they are over capacity and they have to put toboggan-like plastic beds on the floor with mattresses to accommodate the overflow of inmates.

It was reported that in 2016 often times they were over capacity with 60 inmates on a daily basis.

A closet where supplies are kept is a makeshift courtroom for inmates to video conference to the courthouse downtown for preliminary hearings.

What would be called a “sallyport” to bring an inmate into the jail for processing is simply a garage with ladders, tools, garden hoses and a washing machine in the corner.

There are no security features in place to help prevent someone from coming into the back area behind a patrol car when an inmate is being brought into custody for processing.

The outside area where inmates go during their scheduled “yard” time is secured by a chain link fence without any exterior security measures, making it very easy for anyone to slip an inmate contraband.

Inmate property is placed in metal lockers with a lock located in a secured hallway area. The lockers were donated by the White Pine High School several years ago.

The bathroom and shower areas are deteriorated it’s hard to ascertain whether the cinder block is mold ridden, or just so dark and corroded from being run down.  Most evidence that is collected from a search warrant, vehicle stop or any type of crime is stored in a file room, and the bigger items are stored in a conex box outside the facility.

Staffing is another issue.  One officer is on duty to handle all of the inmates. If an emergency occurs another officer from patrol or the detective unit is called upon. With the building being in these conditions it’s hard to keep staff that want to work in these conditions.

The next commission meeting is June 14 at 9 a.m. at the White Pine County Library. This item will be included on the agenda.

The public is encouraged to attend to speak during public comment, You may also contact your local county commissioners with your concerns.