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Probe: March 5, 2002

March 05, 2002

QUESTION: My granddaughter is serving 120 days in the county jail for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since she got there two months ago, three of the four phones used by visitors to talk to female inmates have been broken. Sometimes they cut the men's visiting time to let the women use the eight phones on the men's side.

If you want to visit an inmate, you have to get to the jail early in the morning to make an appointment for the evening. I couldn't make an appointment Saturday or Sunday. On Sunday I waited in line for almost an hour but I couldn't get an appointment. They let only three people (one each hour) visit during visiting hours. I didn't get to see my granddaughter on Tuesday, either.

I wanted to leave $20 so she could buy snacks at the jail store. The clerk wouldn't take it. She said I would have to bring it back later when the shift changed. Why couldn't she take it then? — Grandpa, El Centro


Let's face it, when you are in jail, you have no clout. If you have no clout, nobody cares if you like a situation or not. You can like it or lump it.

Nevertheless, Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Willard told us if you call him, he will arrange for you to see your granddaughter. He said the visitors' phones on the women's side are broken but will be replaced soon. If Willard is not around, talk to Sgt. Matthew Pumphrey.

QUESTION: Was the old building next door to Video 2000 in Imperial ever a hotel? It sure looks like one with windows all around the building. Can you find out how old the building is? — History Buff, Imperial

The second story had rooms to rent, according to Howard Worthington, who bought the building in 1978. At that time the brass room numbers were still on the rooms.

"My dad stayed in that room the first night he arrived in Imperial in 1917," Worthington recalled. Although he didn't know for certain, he said he thought the building was built in 1912 or 1913. That would make it 90 years old.

While the top floor was a hotel, the back of the first floor was a wholesale grocery with offices in the front half. By 1978 the wholesale grocery warehouse was refrigerated. Temperatures would chill to 34 degrees.

That figures. Worthington bought the building from Coors Distributing when the beer company moved to its new building. Coors' claim to fame was it did not use preservatives and its beer had to be kept cold.

Before Coors bought the building, it belonged to the Townsend family. The Townsends owned Acme Beer Distributors. The family lived upstairs until it built a big new house on South Imperial Avenue.

QUESTION: With the city needing so much, $300,000 is a lot of money? Is it true the El Centro City Council budgeted $300,000 for the El Centro Chamber of Commerce? — Thrifty, El Centro

Well, yes and no, give or take a few thousand. The city just signed a two-year contract with the city to run a visitors' and tourist information service for the city, according to chamber Chief Executive Officer Cathy Kennerson. Under the contract, the city pays the chamber $145,000 a year for the service. If you multiply that by two, it totals $290,000, or close enough to $300,000.

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