Cass County Jail seeks grant for deep cleaning, receives final OK on new addition
Other pandemic funding allocations were also approved by Cass County commissioners at their Dec. 7 meeting.
FARGO — Cass County's jail, which recently had its first inmates test positive for coronavirus, is seeking a $27,000 grant to do another deep cleaning of the facility and also on Monday received final approval for a new $6 million inmate intake addition.
Sheriff Jesse Jahner said Monday night, Dec. 7, they will finish applying for the extra emergency aid this week after Cass County commissioners gave their stamp of approval earlier in the day to seek the grant that would be awarded through the state.
The virus has been confirmed in 27 inmates and three staff members, but another mass testing event was done Monday with results sent to the state lab and expected back mid-week.
All cases so far were found in one pod, Jahner said. Most are asymptomatic with only three or four having mild symptoms. As of Monday, none of them required hospitalization.
More inmates, of course, are being booked into the jail and could be of concern, but Jahner said they are in isolation cells and examined daily by onsite nursing staff.
The jail has been in lockdown since Friday, Nov. 27. That’s when staff discovered an inmate who tested positive.
If results from Monday's tests show the situation is under control, the lockdown may be lifted.
Jahner said he doesn’t expect the virus has reached other parts of the jail that can hold 348 inmates, but usually averages about 300 daily.
He attributed the low number of infections to the lockdown, under which there's a policy that requires inmates to wear masks in congregation areas with no interaction between inmates.
Commissioners also finalized most of Cass County's allocations from the $8.5 million in federal CARES Act money granted by the state at their Monday meeting.
The biggest chunk, about $6 million, will go toward the jail intake facility with work expected to start in early spring. A much smaller portion will go to the jail to pay for negative airflow in certain cells.
Bids will be sought for the intake facility, which has become overcrowded from influxes of arrests and the need to isolate new inmates.
Jahner said they sometimes book in 25 to 30 people on a weekend night, and there are only eight holding or observation cells and one larger one in the jail intake area. The expansion would add eight more holding cells.
Also approved was $236,370 to four county towns to pay about 70% of their law enforcement contracts with the county sheriff's department for 10 months this year. The commissioners denied the aid at their last meeting but switched gears and unanimously approved $99,148 each for Casselton and Horace, $24,787 for Kindred and $13,286 for Mapleton.
Deputies patrol the four communities under the contract, and the aid was first requested by Horace as the state divvied out CARES Act funding to local units of government according to law enforcement costs as allowed under the federal law.
Commissioners on Monday held up funding for the IT department for further protection for its computer system until they could receive a better explanation of the benefits. The plan is to make purchases through the state IT department to save funds, and to replace the main firewall connecting the county to the state network as well as to expand overall network capabilities.
Most of the other funding has gone for courtroom remodeling to allow for distancing. An estimated $942,400 is still remaining.