Whitman County courthouse, jail to be renovated

Project will cost about $2 million; jail will receive plumbing upgrades, lights in sheriff’s office will be replaced with LED lights



Brandy Dean, director of Whitman County Facilities Management, said the Whitman County Jail will have a water control system to limit an inmate’s water use if too much is being used.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Former Evergreen reporter

Whitman County commissioners approved a $2-million roofing, plumbing and lighting project to upgrade the county courthouse and jail.

“We are in that jail trying to repair fixtures all the time,” said Brandy Dean, director of Whitman County Facilities Management. “We are in desperate need of plumbing upgrades in the jail.”

Plumbing upgrades in the jail will include a new water management system with high-efficiency fixtures, according to a McKinstry proposal of the project. McKinstry is a building design and construction company. The high-efficiency fixtures are intended to help save the county energy and water. 

The proposal also lists that jail toilets, urinals, shower stalls and the sewage system will be upgraded with high-efficiency replacements.

Dean said the jail will have a water control system to limit an inmate’s water use if they determine someone is using too much. Additionally, the new sewage system will help solve plumbing issues within the jail, she said.

“We have a real problem with the inmates flushing anything and everything they can find down the toilets,” she said. “When I first started working here a little bit over a year ago, they had just had a major sewage flood in the basement.”

All existing lighting will be replaced with LED lights and a new circuit will be put in the Sheriff’s Office to fix circuit breaker issues, according to the proposal.

Dean said the jail was built in 1984 and still mostly contains its original construction.  

“[The jail has] needed some loving attention for quite some time now,” Dean said.

At the courthouse, McKinstry will repair and replace roof sections with water damage and install a roof restoration system to preserve it, according to the proposal. Dean said three access ladders will also be installed to keep workers safe while going up to the roof.

“We were getting pretty good leaks into different offices over the winter,” said Commissioner Dean Kinzer.

Plumbing upgrades will cost $1.4 million, according to the proposal. Jail lighting upgrades will cost about $144,000 and the courthouse roofing restoration will cost about $553,700, bringing the total project cost to nearly $2.1 million.

Kinzer said the county was originally looking at a larger project that would have cost between $8-10 million. However, the commissioners decided it would be irresponsible to take on a high-cost project after the financial setbacks that COVID-19 has caused, he said.

“We asked McKinstry to come back with a scaled-down proposal, which they did,” Kinzer said. “We’re just looking at what needs to be done.”

He said the county is unsure of when the project will start because of the changes made to the proposal in response to COVID-19. Dean said it is projected to take 180 calendar days to complete. 

The story has been updated to clarify the cost of jail lighting upgrades.