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Jail calculations in question

Staff writer

Marion County Attorney Susan Robson sent the Kansas state fire marshal a footprint of the Marion County Jail Sept 2. She is expecting the fire marshal to review the document and respond to the findings by Thursday or Friday.

“We’ll have to see what the bottom line is and we’ll have to work out a plan from there,” Robson said. “We want to do whatever they want us to do.”

The blueprint-like document created by Law Kingdon architect Tony Rangel details the square feet and occupancy of the jail.

After receiving an interpretation of the code from the fire marshal’s office, Robson and Rangel concluded that the 1991 Edition of NFPA Life Safety Code 101, which was quoted in the marshal’s Aug. 3 inspection, requires 120 feet of gross floor space per person. In the original document, the inspector, Brian Love, calculated inmate capacity based on a need for 120 square feet in each cell.

“By occupant load calculation, cells 1, 2, and 3 are each too small to house any prisoners,” the report said. “The north cell block and south cell block could each house two prisoners for a total allowable capacity for the facility of four prisoners.”

Robson received an e-mail from the Fire Marshal’s office acknowledging that the code applies to gross floor area, not square feet per cell. She shared the e-mail with Rangel.

“The code is very specific that it is gross square feet by floor,” Rangel said. “They had initially evaluated it room by room.”

She denied a request by the Marion County Record for a copy of the e-mail until the information could be shared with the commission.

“I get the impression that the person that did the original inspection miscalculated the code,” Robson said.

Robson was sure, after submitting the footprint, that the Marion County Jail complied with the code at an occupancy of 11 inmates. She added that the fire marshal’s initial concern was overcrowding. The jail held 18 inmates as recently as July 28. There were eight inmates in the jail on Tuesday.

“We have sufficient gross floor area for the number of people we have,” she said.

Last modified Sept. 15, 2010

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