Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Inmates flush candy, clothes down toilets

Debris clogs up the Hailey system

Express Staff Writer

Employees in Hailey's Waste Management Department have been working overtime lately.

The city's lift pump, where the county's and city's sewer lines meet, is continually being clogged by debris that is not biodegradable. Inmates at the Blaine County jail are using the facility's toilets for uses other than their intended purpose. They have been flushing down candy wrappers, bedding and even clothing.

Tom Hellen, Hailey public works director, said he and the county are in talks to devise a plan to solve the problem. But right now, city employees are hard at work cleaning out the pump on a regular basis, often after hours.

"Last Tuesday we got a phone call at 7 p.m. to go clean out the pump," Hellen said.

Lt. Jay Davis, jail administrator, said jail engineers are looking to find a solution to the problem either by changing the jail's sewer lines or even the toilets. What the final solution may be, however, is unclear.

"We are taking measures to remedy the situation," Davis said. "We have tightened our inventory. We're watching closely at clothing and laundry exchanges."

As to why the inmates are doing this, Davis is not entirely sure.

"Traditionally inmates flush things down," he said. "Sometimes because they get mad at you, and sometimes they are trying to conceal the fact that they have something they shouldn't have like an extra shirt or commissary."

Jail rules prohibit inmates who can afford food like candy and other snacks from the commissary from sharing with other inmates as it breeds favoritism. It can also make enforcement of discipline more difficult.

Davis said it is hard to know where the blame lies as the jail has several community toilets where as many as 24 people may use the same toilet in a day.

"It's not like any complaints have landed on deaf ears," Davis said. "But inmates are notorious for putting things down the toilet. We're trying our best."

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