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Solley Crane Service operator Donnie Davis lowers a new air conditioning unit onto the roof of Decatur's jail building Tuesday. The new unit was being installed by WS Electrical and Air Conditioning of Decatur.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
Solley Crane Service operator Donnie Davis lowers a new air conditioning unit onto the roof of Decatur's jail building Tuesday. The new unit was being installed by WS Electrical and Air Conditioning of Decatur.

Decatur uses emergency funds to replace jail's air conditioner

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

When a 2.5-ton air-conditioning unit failed at the Decatur city jail last week, inside temperatures rose to 91 degrees before workers could get it back online.

The aging unit had operated nonstop for 15 years and was in danger of failing beyond repair, leaving inmates and jailers to endure sweltering heat for weeks as a replacement was sought.

“Without air, that building is basically a big oven,” said Ray Wilkinson, superintendent of the city’s Maintenance Department.

“There’s no ventilation in there. You can’t open the windows or anything.”

The concerns of city officials — and inmates — were alleviated Tuesday, when city-contracted workers used a crane to hoist a 2-ton replacement unit atop the jail building.

Wilkinson said he expected the unit to be operational by 9 p.m. Tuesday.

To pay for the air conditioner, the City Council voted unanimously to provide $39,802 in emergency funding at its meeting Aug. 20.

Mayor Don Kyle said the unit was “limping along,” using borrowed parts from defunct air-conditioning units, and it wouldn’t last long.

He also said he didn’t think the city would violate any inmate-protection laws if the old unit failed entirely, but it wouldn’t be comfortable for anybody in the jail without it.

Police Chief Ken Collier said the inmates and the jailers would be “tickled to death” once the unit is operational.

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