By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
The Hill County sheriff said he plans to upgrade security at the county detention center after finding a hole in a window at the center.
Sheriff Greg Szudera said he will have a security fence built to keep people away from the building.
Hill County Commissioner Doug Kaercher said the County Commission hasn't received the request yet, but that it seems like a reasonable precaution. The fence is especially needed on the east side, which faces away from the sheriff's office, he said.
"More than likely it's a necessity on that side of the building," he said.
Kaercher said he thinks the fence could be constructed in July, once the commissioners receive and approve Szudera's request. It will probably be constructed by county employees, he said.
Szudera said the hole, drilled through a plexiglass window into an individual cell on the east side of the jail, was discovered about a month ago. The hole was about the size of a dime, he said. He suspects it was drilled from the outside.
Detention center officers said they smelled cigarette smoke in the cell, so it is likely cigarettes were passed through the hole, Szudera said. A search of the facility and the inmates did not find any other contraband, he said.
It was discovered Tuesday that an inmate had been trying to drill a hole through the window of his cell, Szudera said. What tool the inmate was using is not known, and detention center administrator Ric Munfrada is investigating.
Szudera said common items the detention center is required to let the inmates have, like toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes, could have been used.
County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said keeping people away from the the building should solve the problem.
"I think it'll help. It will head off some action that shouldn't be going on," she said.
"And some added expenses," Kaercher added, referring to repairs needed if security is breached.
"This is a pretty small offense, but there's potential for a much larger event," he added.
Kaercher said the south side of the detention center already has a fenced-in holding area, and the west side faces the sheriff's office.
Szudera said the size and location of the fence are still to be decided.
Bessette said the commissioners agree that the extra security is needed, and that they will work with Szudera to meet his request.
The money for the project will probably come out of he detention center maintenance fund, which is a separate fund from the sheriff's main budget, Kaercher said. The detention center maintenance budget this year had $191,616, and Kaercher said the entire fund is usually not spent each year.
The money comes from fees charged to other agencies, like the Border Patrol and Blaine County law enforcement agencies, when they house inmates in the Hill County facility, Kaercher said.
Szudera said he doesn't know what the fence will cost. Once the size and design are decided, the county building maintenance department will determine the cost, he said.
Szudera changed the administration at the detention center last week. Deputy Munfrada has taken over as chief administrator at the facility, and former administrator Les Osborne has returned to law enforcement duties.
Szudera said the change had nothing to do with security at the jail. Osborne had been administrator at the detention center for four years, which can be a trying job, and it was time for a change, Szudera said.