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Workers deal with heat while on the job

August 04, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Heat complaints come in waves from those housed at the Washington County Detention Center, but inmates were not the only ones dealing without air conditioning Thursday, Sheriff Charles Mades said.

Correctional deputies and jail staff must also endure the 90-degree heat while monitoring the nearly 400 inmates housed there, he said.

County maintenance workers have been encouraged to take breaks in their air-conditioned trucks or seek refuge inside if the heat becomes too much while they work repairing fences and maintaining lawns, said Jim Sterling, director of county buildings, grounds and parks.

The same was true for Washington County Public Schools custodians, some of whom were working in schools without air conditioning Thursday, said Carol Mowen, school system spokeswoman. Custodians performing lawn work and outside maintenance were encouraged "to take a common-sense approach to heat while preparing for the opening of school," she said.

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Mowen said there are four county elementary schools without air conditioning: Conococheague, Maugansville, Cascade and Pangborn. She said those schools have air conditioning in school offices, where principals were working Thursday.

Bester Elementary School and Hancock Middle-Senior High School have partial air conditioning, she said.

According to the National Weather Service, highs Thursday were about 98 degrees in Hagerstown. Temperatures today were expected to reach about 85 degrees.

Washington County Hospital spokeswoman Marina Shannon said that doctors this week have treated a couple of people a day for heat-related illnesses.

Mades said the jail has not sent any inmates to the hospital for treatment for heat-related illness but medical staff is keeping an eye on those with medical conditions.

More fans, water and shower breaks are available to inmates when temperatures are high, Mades said.

The jail was built without air conditioning in housing areas in 1984, Mades said. The state will not fund air conditioning for areas where inmates live, Mades said. State prisons also are without air conditioning in cell blocks, he said.

"The bottom line is don't come to jail. It's not a hotel," Mades said.

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