Jail upgrades ready to start

WARREN — Electronic upgrades at the Trumbull County jail are set to begin.

The $4.1 million, yearlong project will replace the electronic systems in the jail, doing away with technology that is more than 20 years old.

Most people didn’t use a personal computer decades old, let alone try to secure their homes with it, said Trumbull County Sheriff Paul Monroe at a meeting Wednesday with jail staff and the contractors who will work on the upgrades.

The system in place now has to be repaired by buying parts through eBay.

It’s like in a cartoon when a character tries to plug a leak in a ship and as soon as one hole is filled, another bursts, said Mike Kelsh, an information technology specialist for the jail.

“I’m looking forward to having brand new technology to work with,” Kelsh said.

Monroe said making the repairs now is like putting a Band-Aid on a wound that needs a bigger bandage. Although Kelsh and the IT staff and maintenance workers have done an outstanding job ensuring the jail’s mechanisms remain functional, he added.

“But all of that is about to end with this project,” said Thomas Pilson, vice president of public safety and security with Professional Systems Engineering. The Lansdale, Pa.-based company specializes in jail consulting and assisted the sheriff’s office with detailing the building needs.

Brookfield-based Penn Ohio Electrical Co. was awarded the $4.1 million contract in July by Trumbull County commissioners, on the recommendation of Monroe, to carry out the improvements.

The number of cameras in the facility is expected to more than double, providing more surveillance in the facility, said sheriff’s Maj. Dan Mason, jail administrator.

Mason said getting from the point of detailing the building’s needs to starting the work in the facility has been a lesson in patience, but now that the work is set to begin he is confident the contractors and jail staff will work together well over the next year.

The jail will have a new generator capable of running the operating system during a power failure and new security automation systems — including control stations for the pods and the systems that open and lock doors in the facility.

To complete the work, inmates will be moved from pods where work is being done. The control panels for the pods will be shut down for about two weeks while the old systems are removed and replaced with state-of-the-art touch-screen panels.

When the central command station is replaced, a backup station will be used.

“The whole goal is to keep the shutdowns to a minimum,” said Chris O’Brien, president of Penn Ohio.

The 50-plus year-old company is experienced in large technological updates, O’Brien said.

When the $25.4 million building was built and opened in 1997, contractors didn’t have to worry about inmates as they worked.

The upgrades are being paid for by the sale of bank notes.

The 286-bed facility has had issues with overcrowding, sometimes reaching populations of 300 or more. There were 319 inmates in the jail Wednesday afternoon.