Air conditioner status generates heat in Village
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO June 7, 2013 An air conditioner and the issue of humane treatment for suspects held at the Village of Monticello Police lockup figured prominently at Tuesday’s village board meeting.
Following a visit to the holding facility early this week, village trustee Carmen Rue raised the issue on her online blog.
“This is a clear-cut human rights issue,” offered Rue in a post dated June 2. “Public servants who risk their lives to protect the public deserve respect and decent working conditions.”
Initially Monticello mayor Gordon Jenkins opposed the measure to replace or repair the malfunctioning A/C unit, saying the village could not afford it.
In another entry, Rue detailed her tour of the facility: “Yesterday (June 1) three people were confined in the cells. All three were young and seemed in good health, but they were literally begging for water due to excess heat. Police supervisors go out of their way to see to it that they [the prisoners] get cold water every half-hour, but officers must answer a high volume of calls from the community all day long.”
Rue claims to have “personally witnessed the unbearable heat in the village lockup,” and purported to be “shocked” by the “deplorable” conditions. Rue used other strong language in describing the conditions at the village lockup writing, “Such atrocities are what third-world countries do to their prisoners.”
In an apparent about-face, Jenkins voted Tuesday in favor of the repairs to the unit at an estimated cost of $3,000. Trustee T.C. Hutchins voted against the measure and board member James Mathews was not present for the vote.
Wrote Rue in a post dated June 5, “At my request police chief Robert Mir has obtained three quotes for the repairs to the air conditioner compressor in the police station.”
After stating that the air conditioning unit in question has in-fact been malfunctioning for more than a year now, Rue claimed, “The mayor/acting manager and other trustees were fully aware of the condition of the unit all of that time and did nothing about it until an emergency developed this week when the hot weather began.”
Mir, in an interview with the Democrat, said, “The unit malfunctioned back in 2011 so it’s actually been almost two years now.”
Mir also explained that a bid has been approved to repair the existing A/C unit.
“It should be fixed by this weekend,” said Mir, who added, “We were able to get a good quote and a fair price to make repairs to the existing unit… it will basically be completely rebuilt.”
Mir said the cost for the new compressor and the repairs to the existing A/C unit will be approximately $3,275. The repairs will be funded with monies in the village police budget originally allocated for ammunition. Part of the cost will supposedly be defrayed by “some anonymous contributions from the community,” according to Rue.
In an interview with the Democrat, Mayor Jenkins refuted Rue’s claims: “I was away all week at a conference in Atlanta. She [Rue] said the unit broke down on Friday… I didn’t even get back into town until this Monday. All they had to do was make a call to have the unit repaired. These units are very old and sometimes break down and need repairs and that’s why we want to make renovations to the entire structure.”
In regard to Rue’s claims that the mayor was aware of the “emergency issue,” Jenkins had some strong language of his own.
“Carmen is a bold-faced liar… she’s downright lying and all she’s trying to do is not only divide this board, but also create a division between the village board and the village police department. I knew nothing about it [the issue with the A/C].”
In a telephone interview, Rue said regarding Jenkins's refutation, “Not true! I called and spoke to him the Friday and the Saturday before he left for Atlanta and I presented him with some of the quotes for the repairs; one of which was about $9,000 and he said, ‘We don't have the money… where is the money going to come from?’ He knew it was broken. It broke back in 2011 so how could he not know? He is not fit to be village manager.”
Rue went on to cite a meeting this week between herself, chief Mir and Mayor Jenkins and claims that when she confronted the mayor about his alleged lies [as far as his knowledge of the malfunctioning unit] Jenkins replied with, “Get the #*%* out of here,” in front of Chief Mir.
“The chief was there… he is my witness,” Rue added.
As for Mir, he said, “Not only are these repairs necessary, but a functioning air conditioning unit will also boost my officers’ morale. It will make conditions for suspects more tolerable and also provide a comfortable environment for complainants who come into the police station on a daily basis.”