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Commissioners agree to share cost of jail improvements

By CHRISTINE L. PRATT Staff Writer Published: April 1, 2017 5:00 AM

MILLERSBURG -- To pay for some necessary improvements at the jail and increasing inmate medical costs, Holmes County Sheriff Timothy W. Zimmerly and the Holmes County commissioners have agreed to do some cost sharing and shifting of revenues from housing out-of-county inmates.

Zimmerly, joined by Chief Deputy Richard Haun, presented to the commissioners two estimates -- one to replace an exterior door and another to replace the handles for interior doors -- all designed to improve security at the facility.

The cost of replacing the exterior door, between the jail's interior and the sally port, has been quoted at $6,684, to include materials and labor.

The existing walk-through steel door, said Zimmerly, is rusted, warped and not latching properly that, for security reasons, needs to be replaced.

Replacement of the handles of 10 cell doors, with new flush pulls, has been quoted at $1,575, said Zimmerly, noting a decision to replace the handles came in the wake of a recent incident at another Ohio jail, in which inmates barricaded themselves into cells by tying towels to the old-style handles.

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The new handles present less of a security risk because they do not stick out in a way they could be tied shut with jail towels or sheets, said Zimmerly.

In response to Zimmerly's request for funding for the project, the commissioners agreed to pay half the cost, with the other half coming from appropriations already made to the sheriff's budget.

Zimmerly said he is thankful for the help, especially since he is in the midst of a $60,000 upgrade to the office's phone system, which is not only outdated, but lacks full compatibility with the Nexgen dispatch system.

Additionally, he said, he continues to search within his budget for additional funding to purchase ballistic helmets and vests for the department's recently revived Special Response Team.

In August, the Holmes County commissioners, at the request of Zimmerly, agreed to give an additional $30,000 to the department to purchase rifles and uniforms to mobilize the 13-member unit.

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Since, Zimmerly said, he's been adding the rest of the equipment out of his own budget, out of which he also is absorbing the cost of specialized training.

The department's prior SRT unit was disbanded several years ago due to lack of interest and financial constraints that prevented replacement of the old, aging guns, which had become unreliable.

The new team, led by Sgt. Tim Stryker, is made up of deputies from the road, dispatch and corrections, said Zimmerly, noting the deputies will all be on call to respond to an emergent situation and participate in planned events, including search warrant execution.

The team, according to the sheriff, can be called into action "when we feel there's a threat to officer safety or other lives are threatened."

It's job is to make entry and secure a scene for other officers to enter, according to the sheriff, who previously said, "We have to be equipped and able to respond to any situation that is thrown into our lap."

Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or cpratt@the-daily-record.com.


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