County chooses firm to secure jail’s portal

February 20, 2013
Constable Paul Kosey walks a prisoner out of the county jail to the constable’s vehicle Wednesday. Normally, vehicles transporting prisoners pull in through the sally port, but the garage doors are broken. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The designated entrance and exit for most Washington County jail inmates has been lacking its vehicular security feature for more than two weeks.

The sally port consists of an enclosure with two garage doors that allow a prisoner to enter or exit a police car or sheriff’s vehicle while going to or from the jail without having access to the outdoors.

The dictionary defines a “sally port” as a secure entryway consisting of a series of doors or gates in which only one opens at a time.

“I’d say it’s critical, but we’re functioning,” said Deputy Warden John Temas. “It’s safer if the doors worked.”

One of the doors wore out, and when a vendor came to check on what was required to repair it, a spring broke on the second door, Temas said.

County purchasing director Randy Vankirk said a purchase order was being prepared Wednesday afternoon authorizing James R. Pitcairn Inc. of Sharpsburg to make the repairs at a cost of $10,500.

“It’s been tough finding people to do that kind of work,” said Larry Maggi, Washington County Commission chairman who also chairs the prison board.

“We’re required to get competitive bids, and a lot of those companies have to be certified by the (state) Department of Corrections.”

Maggi, a former state trooper and sheriff who has escorted prisoners, said, “The purpose of a sally port is cutting off anybody being able to intervene or making an escape attempt.”

No mention of the nonfunctioning sally port was made at Wednesday’s county prison board meeting, at which Edward Strawn was unanimously chosen as new deputy warden at a salary of $55,575 effective Saturday. Strawn’s current title is major in charge of security.

Temas is warden-designate, replacing outgoing Warden Joseph Pelzer, whose last day as a county employee is Friday.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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