The Harvey County Detention Center is old — old enough, in fact, that if it were a person it could buy its own beer.

Built in 1997, the detention center turned 22 this year. Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay joked that it must have been nice to be former Sheriff Byron Motter, who served the county when the detention center was first built. Instead, Gay is in charge of a building past its prime.

Since Gay took over as sheriff, the list of maintenance issues has continued to grow. Touring the facility, he pointed out pipes that continue to spring leaks, an outdated water heater that needs to be replaced, obsolete lighting controls and more items that need to be addressed, such as a new oven, washer/dryer and other standard appliances as old as the building itself.

While there seems to be a new item to address each day, Gay noted the integrity of the building is not in question — but when things break down, it raises other issues.

"I haven't seen anything that would compromise the security of the building. I haven't seen anything over there that makes me worry that somebody's going to escape; I haven't seen that," Gay said. "What I have seen, though, is if a toilet goes down in a cell we have to close the cell. If a door goes down for a cell, we're going to close the cell, so there are things like that that hamper our ability to house more prisoners. When we have cells down for reasons — toilets, sinks, things falling off the wall or breaking off the wall — that inhibits our ability to bring in more revenue."

Housing federal and state prisoners brings in substantially more funding than local prisoners ($71/$61 per individual compared to $35), helping take the burden off taxpayers, as Gay noted the other main source of finances helping with building repairs comes from the county general fund.

Each year, money is set aside in the Capital Improvement Plan to help address those maintenance issues. That has included upgrades to the fire suppression system at the detention center, resurfacing of the floor (with the tile removed and the cement ground down recently) and annual funds set aside to replace the porcelain sinks and toilets in the 100-plus cells at the detention center.

Toilet replacement is an item that has been part of the CIP since former Sheriff T. Walton was serving, with Gay noting the $15,000 set aside is enough to replace two toilets and sinks annually.

In 2020, Gay noted $125,000 is set aside for detention center maintenance in the CIP for the sheriff's office, with the largest chunk of that dedicated to address a rooftop A/C unit in dire need of replacement.

While Gay said the maintenance problems at the detention center don't directly impact the deputies' jobs, they do have a roundabout influence — as the building functioning at 100% would streamline efficiencies.

"For one thing, that would allow, especially our upper management, time to focus on other things that are important to running that place, other than just the physical building part of it," he said. "Now, they focus quite a bit of time on 'oh look, we've got a leak' so now they have to go try to find somebody to come fix the leak," Gay said. "If all that stuff was fixed, it would give us time to focus on other things at the detention center — taking care of inmates and taking care of our people."

One item that would directly impact the ability for the detention center deputies to do their jobs is the functioning of door locks. Gay said detention center pods typically aren't entered unless all prisoners are in their cells. A malfunctioning door sensor would change the way that deputies are able to enter pods.

Recently, the sheriff's office found a company to do maintenance checks on its door locks and sensors — something Gay said the detention center will now try to schedule annually.

Maintenance comes with the territory — one step at a time. The sheriff's office and detention center are constantly addressing that and, while that is natural, he assured the public that will not affect the functionality of the jail.

"People aren't going anywhere in there. That's not happening," Gay said. "It's a very secure facility, but it's also 22 years old. Things are leaking, breaking, all those things that happen with a 22-year-old, 24-hour facility. I just want to make sure people understand that we're trying to do the best we can over here to make that place run efficiently."