DeKalb sheriff requests another $4 million to fix up moldy jail

Since April, protesters have gathered outside the DeKalb County jail to highlight what they say are unsafe and inhumane conditions. Now, the man in charge of running the jail has asked for millions of dollars in new funding to address some of the protesters’ concerns.

DeKalb Sheriff Jeffrey Mann told county commissioners that he needs $794,097 to complete an overhaul of the jail's kitchen, where a black mold remediation is already underway using $600,000 allocated last year.

VIDEO: Previous coverage of this issue

Mann’s written presentation to the county commission said the kitchen rebuilt “encountered some unforeseen delays and additional costs.”  The new ask more than doubles the cost of the project, that includes a rebuild of the jail’s kitchen and new surveillance cameras.

The sheriff also said he needs $2.5 million to $3 million to remove mold that is visibly growing in 37 dormitories at the jail. This issue of moldy living quarters was one of the main concerns raised in protests in April and May, including one that turned violent along Memorial Drive.

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These were the most urgent requests, but the sheriff also asked the DeKalb County commission to allocate $418,896 to replace a chiller at the jail, which provides air conditioning for the entire building. And he said he needs $614,695 to purchase 10 new vehicles for Sheriff’s Office employees.

Mann made his presentation during a committee meeting on Tuesday where commissioners reviewed CEO Michael Thurmond’s mid-year budget adjustments. The new jail funding is not part of Thurmond’s recommendation and would require county officials to come up with a source for these dollars with most of the county’s dollars already promised elsewhere.

And it doesn’t take into account other department heads who may also ask for more funding to carry out tasks for the remainder of the calendar year. The county commission is scheduled to approve the revised budget at its July 9 meeting.

Commissioners have not decided on Mann’s request. They discussed waiting on a comprehensive review of maintenance issues at the jail to come up with a total amount needed and a long-term plan for how it will be financed. That could include borrowing money using government bonds.

“We need to have a whole conversation about the strategies to address these issues,” said Commissioner Nancy Jester, who chairs the Finance, Audit and Budget Committee.