Proceeds of a $99,000-plus “soft” grant through the CARES Act will do more than keep the McClain County Courthouse free of the coronavirus.
Sheriff Don Hewett is also using some of the funds to battle an ongoing bed bug problem in the McClain County Detention Center.
While the sheriff’s department is spending the bulk of the federal grant to pay the salary of a second courthouse deputy and to purchase masks and PPEs, it has also bought a machine to sanitize the aging jail and installed a shower system.
Incoming prisoners are required to use the shower when they are booked.
The shower utilizes a soap solution that’s deadly to the tiny bloodsuckers and is also supposed to kill the coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
Hewett said the bed bug infestation “got a little extreme” last year and an exterminator has come in and sprayed cells a half-dozen times over the past year.
Still, the concerted effort has failed to eliminate the bed bugs.
At fault is concrete that’s as old as the jail. The concrete is covered with tiny cracks in which the bed bugs lay their eggs.
And therein is the real problem.
So far exterminators haven’t found a treatment that can break the bed bugs’ life cycle by reaching and killing those eggs before they hatch, emerge, feed and lay more eggs.
The next step underway now, Hewett said, is using a specialized caulk to seal every crack.
In the meantime, the showers do help by keeping prisoners from bringing in more bed bugs on their persons.
“We have to really be careful what we use back there (jail),” Hewett said, adding every chemical must be approved by several agencies.
As for coronavirus precautions, Hewett has acquired a tank and spray apparatus with his PPE supplies.
Starting at 7 a.m. every day, every nook, cranny and office in the courthouse is sprayed with a disinfectant that kills the coronavirus.
By the time employees arrive at 8 a.m., the spray has dried and the building has been sanitized.
Also, a trusty is assigned to wipe down every door knob and handle.
Hewett said because the CARES Act money is a soft grant, the county isn’t required to furnish any matching funds or repay the proceeds.
McClain County Clerk Pam Beller said the county will submit its request for CARES Act monies on July 10.
She didn’t know Monday how much that request would be or if the county will receive all they ask for.
While area public schools and Purcell Municipal Hospital have received their allocations from the CARES Act, municipal governments haven’t.
It’s a waiting game for Purcell, Washington, Goldsby and Wayne.
Purcell City Manager Dale Bunn said the application period for municipalities just opened about 1-1/2 weeks ago.
Across the bridge in Lexington, interim city manager Deana Allen said they didn’t apply for CARES Act funds.
“We didn’t meet any of the criteria,” she said, adding revenue for the town has actually gone up during the pandemic.