OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla – “On track and on time.” It was an encouraging six month progress report. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is strategizing how to best use $116.5 million dollars in bond money to address aging prison infrastructure. Construction and Maintenance Supervisor Faron Bryant said, “We’ve all talked about the band aids, and the bailing wire. If you do not have water, or electric, and you do not have heat, it’s just like it’s your house. It’s total chaos.”
Only months into the sweeping three year project, the DOC Construction and Maintenance Department is making tremendous strides. Chief of Operations Scott Crow said, “One of the things we’ve seen is deferred maintenance. And actually it was no maintenance at all. And so, we were fortunate through Director Allbaugh to receive money through this bond project. We’ve been able to work on projects that have been neglected.”
About 130 tasks are either in progress or complete. The list of needs is expansive, including door and lock replacement, electrical upgrades, heat and air, plumbing, roof and water tower replacement. According to Crow, “I always like to use the example of the water tower. At the Mack Alford Correctional Center at that facility with 1200 inmates, the water tower had a piece of a broom handle driven into the side of it to patch a hole because it rusted from the interior out and so those are the things if not for the diligence of our staff and keeping things pieced together those infrastructures would fail.
In the long run – modernizing and replacing equipment will create substantial saving for Oklahoma taxpayers. Many of the prison’s heat and air units are 20 to 30 years. Crow said, “There are many cases where those units we replace a compressor for 2 to 3000 dollars and 6 months later the motor goes out in the end you’ve spent more money that the unit is worth and the inefficiency of the system you’re throwing money away.”
With teamwork and good stewardship, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections will improve efficiency, morale and safety at prisons across the state. “We are spending the taxpayer money like it’s coming out of our own back pockets.” Said Bryant.