One portion of an almost yearlong renovation to correct plumbing issues at the Lafayette Parish jail is complete, with another four of the jail’s five floors set for upgrades that include accommodations for disabled inmates and energy-efficient and secure lighting in cells.
Most of the $2 million work involves installing new copper and metal plumbing pipes to replace aged PVC pipes that caused several leaks each week for decades, said Lt. Cher Holland, who oversees maintenance at the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office’s 24 properties.
Valves that control water flow in each cell were installed. Before, plumbing on entire floors had to be shut down to address problematic pipes.
Holland said the renovations will allow the Sheriff’s Office to focus on preventative maintenance rather than trying to fix consistent problems.
“We spend most of our time chasing leaks. We’re really excited about this,” Holland said.
The Sheriff’s Office on Friday led a media tour of the Correctional Center’s fifth floor, which was first to undergo about eight weeks of renovations that began in November and reached completion Thursday night.
Lafayette Consolidated Government, which owns the facility, paid $1 million for the renovation, and the state paid another $1 million, corrections Director Rob Reardon said.
Additional upgrades included installing protective covers over fixtures in the housing unit’s common areas. Exposed plumbing pipes lining inmate common areas are now covered by metal fixed to the wall with corrections-grade hardware that requires special tools to remove.
Televisions in the inmate common area are covered with protective glass to protect the equipment and to dim the sounds emitted by the TV, helping control the room’s noise level, Reardon said.
Warehouse-style fluorescent light fixtures in each cell also were replaced with protected LED fixtures created specifically for correctional centers and designed to be long-lasting, Reardon said.
He estimated the LED light replacements will save the Sheriff’s Office about $30,000 a year.
The renovations include adding American Disabilities Act-compliant cells for disabled inmates. The jail houses more than a dozen disabled inmates who had to be carried in and out of their cells by corrections employees because their wheelchairs could not fit into the small spaces, Reardon said.
Door frames on the ADA-compliant cells are wider, and the beds have been moved away from the cell entrance to better facilitate wheelchair mobility.
With the opportunity available for additional maintenance while an entire floor was cleared out, the Sheriff’s Office also painted all the housing units and cells and checked, cleaned and repaired locks, door handles and windows.
“Anytime you can empty out a floor, you want to get everything done that you possibly can,” said Capt. Colby Barbier, who oversees facilities management.
Upgrades to the 31-year-old facility will continue floor by floor, with an expected completion date of September or October, Reardon said.
He said inmates will move onto the renovated floor over the weekend, and about 400 inmates will be transferred Sunday to the Sheriff’s Office’s Public Safety Complex on Willow Street as the renovations continue.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.