CONTINUING COVERAGE: FLOODS OF 2016

Sheriff’s Organization: Warren County Jail Violating the Law

WARREN COUNTY, Iowa -- Mold, sewer problems, exposed wires -- those are just a few of the problems at the Warren County Courthouse.

Kathy George, a legal assistant in the County Attorney's Office, says the building is making her sick.

"We're sick," she said. "We're all sick and it's not going to get better until we're not working here."

The sewer smell got so bad last week, some county employees were told to stay home. But the inmates housed in the Warren County Jail on the third floor of the building don't have that option.

"You know, I don't know what the answer is," said Crystal McIntyre, a Warren County Supervisor. "I believe they should be moved out somewhere."

McIntyre says the list of problems at the jail is endless. The Iowa State Sheriffs' and Deputies' Association agrees. The organization issued a scathing report following a tour last June.

It reads in part:

"There is mold growing on the pipes, and the sewer smell in the cell blocks is very strong... There are no fire barriers above the doorways to block smoke and fire.  This is an extreme safety issue for inmates and staff... Inmates have complained that they have developed respiratory issues since they were incarcerated."

Supervisor Dean Yordi hadn't seen the report but says a number of the issues in the jail have been addressed.

"We've put some traps in that weren't in there to prevent the sewer gasses from coming back," Yordi said.

But there's one the repairs can't fix.

"Space is the number one issue," McIntyre said.

Last year, Warren County spent $300,000 on housing prisoners in other facilities. McIntyre is also concerned some inmates may sue the county because of the hazardous conditions. But so far, Warren County voters have refused to approve a $35 million bond to build a new jail and justice center.

"I don't like raising taxes any more than anybody else because I have to pay these taxes. I live here too," McIntyre said. "But I also see the cost that is running up now."