Bangor prison ‘collapses’ after kitchen, elevator and control panel stop working

A major leak partially shut down the kitchen at the Penobscot County Jail, forcing the jail to purchase meals and bring them in from outside at additional cost.

Additionally, the prison’s only elevator and the electronic control panel that controls the cell doors and intercom have broken down in the past two weeks, which have proven to be difficult repairs.

These are the latest problems to arise at the Bangor facility which is over 160 years old. Penobscot County has implemented a 100-bed jail expansion in recent months.

“Our building is falling apart,” Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton told county commissioners on Tuesday.

Recent problems have forced the prison this week to house 59 inmates in other facilities, which comes at a cost. The jail had recently boarded a lower number of inmates, about 30 to 40, the sheriff said.

The county has budgeted $950,000 for boarding school this yearwhich is a $300,000 increase over last year’s allocation to send inmates elsewhere when there is no room in the chronically overcrowded Bangor jail.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 145 inmates at the jail, a dozen fewer than the 157 it is licensed to hold, Morton said.

Finding parts for the 37-year-old elevator and control panel was a major problem, the sheriff said.

A part needed to restore the control panel came from Washington County Jail, which had retained part of its old control panel when it replaced it a few years ago.

On Tuesday, commissioners unanimously approved spending $100,000 to rebuild the elevator after Morton told them it had broken down several times over the past week.

The county has not yet determined the cost to replace or upgrade the control panel. He has set aside $100,000 for repairs to Bangor Jail this year.

Morton called the kitchen’s closure “a catastrophic failure” of the aging facility. The sheriff said local vendors have been helpful in providing meals, but he expects it to be expensive. The prison’s food budget this year is $350,000.

The sheriff did not know on Tuesday how long repairs to the kitchen would take and when it would be fully operational again.

County Administrator Erika Honey said Tuesday she would review whether any of the $29.5 million in federal funds Penobscot County is receiving under the American Rescue Plan Act can be used for repairs. Honey previously said the federal money could be used for prison renovations, but not for new construction. The county had explored using some of the U.S. bailout money for the jail addition.

Last month, the commissioners hired a local company to oversee plans for the possible addition of 100 beds and to recommend how the old YMCA building, across Court Street from the county offices and jail, could be redeveloped into office space.