Issues at MCCC lead to $37,490 in fines

Fines were levied against the Department of Public Safety for an assortment of fire safety issues at Maui Community Correctional Center. The Maui News MATTHEW THAYER photo

Inoperable doors, dormitory stairways in disrepair and a fire alarm system that has not been operational for years at Maui Community Correctional Center have led to $37,490 in fines — the second time this summer that the Maui jail has been cited.

The state labor department’s Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division cited Maui’s only jail on Aug. 29 with five “serious” violations and ordered the state Public Safety Department to pay the fines by Oct. 4, according to division documents.

Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Tuesday the two departments settled on a payment of $22,820 on Sept. 18 for three of the five citations with the other two waived. She said all citations were fire-safety related.

The first citation of $8,150 was for a recreation yard exit door that was observed to be damaged due to corrosion and could not be opened quickly.

Schwartz said public safety officials were aware of the problem and were awaiting installation of a replacement door already on-site. She said the department will request for an extension to the end of October for the installation of the new recreation yard door to avoid the risk of a repeat citation.

Another $6,520 fine was waived. It revolved around adult correction officers not having ready access to a key to fire alarm pull stations; the damaged recreation door from the first citation not being inspected monthly; and a section of the fire alarm system that monitored the jail’s intake, administration building and other areas not being operational for years with no appropriate protocols to ensure fire safety for those areas.

MCCC officials offered points of mitigation to the labor department that showed the facility was in compliance or in the process of resolving the issues, Schwartz said. The penalty was waived in a settlement conference.

All adult correction officers now carry the key to the fire alarm pull stations and inspection reports that document the damaged recreation yard door were presented to state labor officials, Schwartz said. She added that information on the fire alarm panel maintenance contract and fire watch protocols also were provided to officials.

The third citation of $6,520 was for two wooden dormitory stairways in disrepair. Stair railing posts were loose and secured by a rusted metal bracket. The railing system also could not withstand 200 pounds, according to the documents.

The two stairways were immediately repaired when jail personnel became aware of the violation, Schwartz said.

The fourth citation of $8,150 was for three inoperable fire alarm pull stations and a nonfunctioning fire alarm panel. The central control fire alarm panel also showed trouble indicators.

Schwartz said MCCC was in the process of correcting issues by upgrading the fire alarm panel and smoke detectors. She said that the repair project is pending and that the functional components of the fire safety system are being maintained through a contract with a “competent vendor.”

She added that in areas where the system remains nonfunctional, a fire watch has been implemented to maintain fire safety. This means security staff are assigned to routinely conduct physical checks several times an hour to monitor, report and log fire safety conditions and the activities of inmates in the area.

The fifth citation of $8,150, waived following a conference with labor officials, involved having no annual fire alarm panel testing and inspections. Schwartz said the issue already was being addressed through a maintenance contract implemented in July — prior to the citation.

This marks the second time this summer that MCCC has been fined for fire safety issues. On June 27, the jail was issued $16,300 in penalties for not testing a fire alarm panel and for an either deactivated or turned-off fire alarm panel. The penalties were later reduced to $8,150.

Schwartz said last month that “at no time, were inmates at risk,” and issues with the system had no impact on the fire suppression system throughout the facility.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

COMMENTS