GREG LOWER

ERIE — The Neosho County Jail has received a $46,600 grant to create a negative air flow cell to house prisoners with contagious diseases.

The Kansas Governor’s Grants Program Administrator notified the Neosho County Sheriff’s Office it would receive $46,632 from the Federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding grant.

Undersheriff Greg Taylor said he only knows of one other jail in southeast Kansas, the Cherokee County jail, that has this feature. The system is designed to pull and filter the air directly from the cell to provide a safer environment for the staff and inmates.

The proposed cell is one of four off of the booking room. The cell does not have a toilet, sink or bunk like the other three, and jail staff can only hold prisoners in it for a short time.

Although the grant was awarded to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it also will deal with prisoners with tuberculosis or other infectious diseases. Taylor said the jail has been trying to follow recommendations to prevent exposing pre-outbreak prisoners to newer ones.

The project is estimated at $11,214 for the ventilation and $15,690 for plumbing. Any funds left over from the project are earmarked for personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies.

The PPE includes self-contained breathing hoods for jail staff who enter the negative air flow cell, and a screening station for things like taking temperatures.

Taylor credited Neosho County Health Department Director Teresa Starr and grant writer Stephanie Henry for being aware of the funds and recommending equipment.

“We didn’t even know about the grant,” Taylor said. “We’d have never gotten this without their help.”

Jail staff will attend a training class in the next few weeks on how to use the grant funds before the renovation work will start.

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