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Hays inspectors say county jail kitchen passes tests

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Health inspectors from the City of San Marcos and Hays County gave their stamp of approval to the Hays County Jail kitchen facility last week, scoring it “about the same average as every restaurant in San Marcos scores on a routine basis,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley.


Hays County Commissioners are moving forward with extensive renovation plans for the county jail and also with plans to appeal a decision by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to shut down the kitchen by Nov. 20.


As part of their preparation for the appeal, county commissioners last week ordered health inspections of the jail’s kitchen by both the county and the City of San Marcos. In addition, commissioners ordered an environmental assessment of the kitchen to determine the level of mold present in certain areas. The results are expected sometime this week.


According to Conley, the inspection results prove that the jail kitchen does not have health and sanitary problems. The recent health inspection is the fifth the jail has passed in the last 12 months he said.


County Judge Elizabeth Sumter questioned whether “tainted food” was the reason the state commission ordered the kitchen closed at its Nov. 5 hearing, suggesting instead that it was because of “unsafe conditions” in the kitchen, including broken floor tiles that could pose a risk to people working in the kitchen.


County Attorney Mark Kennedy said that he followed up with both health inspectors on that specific issue and that they felt the kitchen was not an unsafe environment. Conley, who accompanied health inspectors last week, also disagreed with the idea that conditions in the kitchen pose a safety risk.


“If the commission thinks that kitchen facility fails because of a structural safety issue, I guarantee you could shut down every jail kitchen in the state of Texas,” Conley said. “You may stub your toe on one end of a corner piece of tile in that kitchen, and that is the extent.”


The commissioners voted to authorize Kennedy to draft and submit a letter of appeal to the state commission this week, citing the recent inspections and other evidence that the county is taking definite measures to renovate the jail’s kitchen facilities.


In addition to the appeal, commissioners approved a higher quality, more expensive insulation to be used on the jail’s new roof, for which the county approved a $293,000 contract on Nov. 3.


According to representatives from Broaddus and Associates, the project costs were calculated with insulation that would last for about three years. But insulation with a higher “R-value”—a measure of thermal resistance used in the construction industry—that will last about 10 years will cost approximately $75,500 more.


The question of whether to spend more on insulation is related to the broader question of how long the county’s current jail facility will remain in use. Commissioners ultimately approved the additional costs for the improved insulation, which will not affect the project’s timeline. The replacement of the jail’s approximately 83,000-square-foot roof is due for completion in the spring.

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