City and County Officials Clash Over Jail Commissary Trash

Starke County Justice CenterCommissary items being flushed down the toilets at the Starke County Jail are causing problems for the Knox Wastewater Department. Superintendent Kelly Clemons told the county commissioners Monday night the city has lost two pumps since Sept. 6th due to trash like razors, toothbrushes and elastic underwear bands getting into the lines.

Clemons says the county needs to install a mechanical screen in order to get the trash out. Commissioner Kathy Norem pointed out the system that is currently in place is the one Clemons selected and is not what the engineers with DLZ originally proposed. Clemons says that’s because the original recommendation called for trash to be ground. According to Clemons, that won’t work because the sewage is pumped from the jail through two lift stations en route to the Wastewater Treatment Plant at the back of Wythogan Park. She says any grease or debris that might be in the line would catch on the ground matter and cause blockages along the way.

The engineer who recommended the existing system told the county only small pieces would get through the bar screen, but Clemons says that hasn’t been the case. The city has been having problems with trash from the jail for more than a year. She adds trash must be removed.

“The commissary either needs to be taken away or some kind of screen put in. There’s no way to get around it,” Clemons said. That drew an objection from Sheriff Bill Dulin, who said the commissary is staying. He agreed the trash needs to be taken out and noted that during the issue was raised during the discussions of the new jail builidng.

Clemons, Dulin and jail maintenance director Tony Mildice are to meet and come up with a recommended solution and a cost prior to the next commissioners meeting. Meanwhile, Clemons suggested the bar screen be checked at least once per hour by Mildice or a member of the staff. If the problem persists, Clemons says the mayor is ready to fine the county.