Latest Broken Pipe At State Pen Could Close One Unit Up To 2 Years

     The Nebraska Dept of Corrections says the damage last week from a burst water line at the State Penitentiary in Lincoln was worse than first thought and a 135-bed housing unit might not be usable again for 2 years.

    Corrections engineering administrator Nate Bornemeier says water filled a basement mechanical room that contains the controls for cell doors, HVAC systems, fire protection and security video filled with 9 feet of water the left behind mud up to 2½ feet deep.

      Bornemeier says there’s also concern about mold and foundation damage to a flooded unit housing 135 elderly and medium/maximum security inmates – adding that it could take a year or 2 to go through all the steps to make it occupiable again.

    Those inmates were moved to the new maximum-security wing of the Reception and Treatment Center in Lincoln that had not been put into service yet. Unless beds are found elsewhere, the wing won’t get its planned occupants, the most disruptive inmates, for the foreseeable future. 

    Bornemeier says the leak was caused by a cast-iron water pipe that had corroded on the bottom, a recurring problem at the 153-year old prison. A similar leak last fall shut down water service to the entire prison with 2 small breaks in 2017 and 2018.

     Officials say just getting architects and engineers to inspect the damage may take six months with supply chain issues likely to delay shipment of replacement equipment as well. 

.    The leak could add more ammunition to calls by Gov. Pete Ricketts and corrections officials to build a new $270-million dollar 1,500-bed prison to replace the Penitentiary, a proposal that’s expected to be a hot topic for next year’s legislature. 

    Critics argue the prison won’t put a dent into the state’s long-running overcrowding and that alternatives to building more cells must be considered.

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