Repairs underway to Jasper County jail after flood damages cells

A big mess was left behind in Ridgeland and across Jasper County when Bonnie flooded roads, buildings, and cars. Hundreds of thousands of dollars could be needed in order to make necessary repairs, including the county jail.

The Jasper County Detention Center took on water on Sunday, three to four inches invading inmate housing cells. The inches of water forced a third of inmates to be evacuated; several feet of water surrounding the building kept staff trapped inside.

Days later, it’s almost back to business as usual for jail staff. However, the clean-up is ongoing and the inmates transferred to Beaufort and Orangeburg county jails have not yet returned. The inmates serving maximum sentences were not transferred, but were moved to second-floor cells.

“It surprised the whole county. I never thought I would see something like this,” Director Arthur Benjamin says of the flood.

Benjamin hopes all inmates can return within the next week.

“Some of the housing units, the floors was damaged real bad from the water,” he says. “The drainage system also was where the water backed up into the housing units.”

Benjamin accessed the building only by boat when it was overwhelmed with water on Sunday morning.

“I’m what? 285 [lbs.]? and getting on the boat for the first time?” he laughs. “[The building] was like we were just on an island by itself.”

County Administrator Andrew Fulghum says there are modifications to the building that are under construction as the repairs go on. However, he won’t disclose what those are

“No ma’am, we keep that pretty close to us because we have some security issues there, obviously,” Fulghum says.

He says they are minor and not costly, but will not have a true estimate on what the price will be for all repairs county-wide until Thursday. He met with staff on Wednesday to go over damage assessments so far.

It’s still possible more damage reports come in from private homes and businesses.

“It was devastating, you know, and a couple of businesses right now, they are out of business because of the flooding problem so they’re losing their daily income,” County Assessor Susan Waite says.

“I just feel like the homeowners really, it’s very fortunate that we didn’t have any more homes reported,” Waite says.

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