Jail to make money-saving upgrades

Published 9:28 am Friday, July 31, 2015

by Henry Luzzatto/Correspondent 
The Western Tidewater Regional Jail will begin updates next month to make the facility more energy efficient at no cost to the local governments that support the jail.

Earlier this month, Isle of Wight County, Franklin and Suffolk approved an energy performance contract with Siemens, who has been contracted to update the jail’s facilities.

Construction will start in mid- to late August, Superintendent William C. Smith said. Upgrades will focus on three main areas: water systems, lighting and heating, he added.

Under the current system, inmates can waste water by flushing toilets repeatedly and running showers more than once. After upgrading the system so that it is controlled electronically, the jail will prevent this from happening, Smith said.

Components will also be replaced in order to decrease the toilets’ gallons per flush, saving even more water, he said.

“With between 650 and 700 inmates, a large amount of water gets used,” Smith said. “So it’s by far our biggest cost savings.”

Another upgrade will be changing the lights in the jail to more efficient and longer-lasting LEDs. The new lights will save on the power bill and will also decrease maintenance costs because they can be changed less frequently, he said.

The boilers in the jail will also be updated for more energy-efficient models. Smith said that the jail will install an ozone laundry system, which is more efficient because it uses cold water to clean instead of needing hot water.

The total costs of updating the jail will be between $4.5 and $4.7 million, he said. However, because the deal is negotiated via a state energy performance contract through the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, the energy savings are expected to pay for the money spent on upgrading. If not, the company doing the upgrades will have to make up the difference.

The loan has to be paid off in 15 years.

Smith said that the upgrades will take an estimated nine months, and he projects that they will be finished in May or June of next year.