Pitkin County Jail flood damage rises above $200k
The amount of damage caused by an inmate who hacked off a sprinkler head in a cell at the Pitkin County Jail in August is $226,000 and rising, a county official said Monday.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Ximena Hulslander, a safety and risk management technician for Pitkin County. “It’s no joke.”
Benjamin Garrett, 32, who was arrested for methamphetamine possession Aug. 25, caused the damage after prying a light housing fixture off the ceiling of a cell where he was being housed at the jail. He initially tried to flood another cell by plugging the sink and turning the water on full blast, jail officials have said.
When he was moved to another cell, video shows him prying the large metal fixture from the ceiling, then entering the bathroom and returning to the main cell area. The cell’s bathrooms have no camera coverage, but video shows brown water beginning to flow into the cell just after Garrett returns from the bathroom.
At that point, Garrett began screaming at jail deputies, refusing to obey their commands and smashing the light housing against the cell’s windows and door, according to the video. Water pours into the cell and, by extension the rest of the jail, for the next 20 minutes or so while deputies call in reinforcements to try to deal with Garrett.
Finally, two deputies and an Aspen police officer wrestled Garrett under control, and then strapped him into a restraint chair before taking him to the hospital, where he was treated for broken ribs and facial injuries.
Water from the sprinkler knocked out servers in the jail basement that control 911 communications, law enforcement communications and law enforcement records-management systems. Vail 911 dispatchers handled calls for about an hour early in the morning of the flood until Aspen dispatchers were able to move to a temporary location at the Mountain Rescue Aspen building near the Aspen Business Center.
The dispatch center was scheduled to move permanently to the North 40 Fire Station at the Aspen Business Center in September or October. Much of that new digital radio equipment already had been installed at the North 40, so county officials were able to speed up the transfer and start up the new dispatch center the next night following the flood.
The $225,913 so far billed for the jail damage includes repairing the water damage at the jail, replacing IT equipment, a jail intercom system, a server for dispatch calls, getting new radio equipment and handling worker’s compensation claims, Hulslander said. The amount does not yet include some of the damaged radio translator equipment, she said.
Jeff Krueger, the county’s communications site manager, told Pitkin County commissioners last week that 60 pieces of electronics equipment were damaged in the flood, though he said much of that loss will be covered by insurance.
Hulslander also said that much of the other damage will probably be covered by insurance.
“We’re hoping to get most of it back,” she said.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said the damage estimate was expected.
“I’m not surprised institutional repairs cost that much money,” he said. “In a matter of 60 seconds, (Garrett) flooded our whole electronics infrastructure.”
Jodi Smith, the county’s facilities director, said much of the replaced equipment has been installed at the North 40 location or in a ground level room at the jail building that is only one story and, thus, not prone to be flooded again. The electronics equipment was in the jail’s basement and was damaged when water seeped into the lowest level.
Garrett, who was allowed out of jail on a personal recognizance bond after causing the damage, has been charged with felony assault and criminal mischief.