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Palo Alto County Public Safety Center Update

Current Facilities Present Hazards to Staff, Inmates

By Staff | Feb 16, 2021

WATER HAZARD -- Multiple water lines for the current facility run directly above the breaker boxes. Even the smallest of leaks could shut down the Communication Center, Jail and Sheriff's Office. -- submitted photo

Today’s focus is on the existing facility’s evaluation of the electrical, heating components and plumbing. To view nearly 100 pages of information, including many pictures of the current structure, please visit https://paloaltosheriff.com/public-safety-facility/.

The building was built in 1908 to accommodate the Sheriff’s residence and jail. The Sheriff’s residence consisted of the bedrooms and bathroom upstairs, and kitchen/living room and office downstairs. The inmates’ meals were prepared in the Sheriff’s kitchen. The building has been renovated and repurposed many times over the years. The structure and design was never intended for the multiple uses now required for Palo Alto County.

Given the time period the building was built, we would anticipate minimal insulation in the walls and the attics of the buildings. Renovations are limited with the stairwells to the upper level and basement, along with the bearing walls supporting the structure. Interior spaces have been modified to the extent possible to meet space requirements for the different functions, operations, and storage. Even the additions, which are over 27 years old, were limited somewhat to the original size of the building footprint. Trying to maintain security to the E911/communications, administrative offices, jail support areas and jail is very difficult. The windows in the main jail are protected by security grilles installed on the interior of the windows to prevent escape. The numerous entrances into the building require additional measures to maintain security. The windows in the rest of the facility are standard residential construction that offer low insulation ratings and they do not protect the staff from the public and could become a problem in the event of a severe storm.

Over 50% of the basement is being used for mechanical systems and communication equipment. The foundation walls, poured in the early 1900s, were poured in sections so there are cold joints throughout the foundation which could allow gases to enter the building and possibility for leaks to develop. There are also places where the floor needed to be cut up to allow for new utilities or lines to be installed in the building. The floor has also cracked over the course of the years which they have tried to patch or caulk. Both of these can lead to radon or other gases leaking into the building, as well as the possibility of moisture migrating into the facility which could create mold.

Consistent electrical and communication upgrades have been completed to keep the building within the current electrical codes and to update the communication system. The hardened basement structure and the jail cell areas required a lot of the wiring and conduits to be surface mounted.

Although some of the wiring has been upgraded, it is anticipated that there is wiring in areas that is not accessible without demolition that may be old and should be replaced. It would be anticipated that some of the wiring in the upper Sheriff’s residence walls and attic have not been renovated and could be a fire hazard. Trying to get new data and electrical wiring to areas is difficult and may require to be surface mounted.

Read the full article in The Reporter.