County OKs jail expansion
By LPR Staff
Caldwell County will soon add a total of 156 beds to the existing jail, in an effort to ease the overcrowding that has plagued the jail for months.
After weeks of deliberation about the overcrowded status of the Caldwell County Jail, the Caldwell County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to take action to correct
Relying on input from a panel of county citizens, Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law, Jail Administrator Keith Jeffrey and representatives from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the Commissioners decided that the only way to correct the situation at the jail was to build two additions to the current facility.
“The last thing in the world I want to do is [build an addition to the jail],” said Commissioner Joe Roland. “We have roads that we can”t fix and hardworking employees that we can”t give raises… but we need to do something.”
During the last Jail Standards audit, the Caldwell County Jail was found to be out of compliance with state law, largely because of the number of inmates housed there. In an effort to correct the problem, jail officials have been housing inmates outside the county. However, continuing to do so would be cost-prohibitive, and if conditions are not brought into compliance with Jail Standards regulations, the Caldwell County Jail could be decertified and closed.
In light of the alternatives, Roland moved that the Court immediately move forward with the construction of a 48-bed “minimum security annex,” and seek financing options to add 108 additional beds and an infirmary to the Caldwell County Jail.
According to the County”s architectural firm, the annex will cost around $300,000 to build. The jail addition will cost an additional $6.3 million or so.
The Commissioners expect the project will be financed by a combination of limited tax notes and certificates of obligation.
Representatives from First Southwest Co., the County”s financial advisors, proposed a number of financing options, which the Commissioners will continue to explore in the near future. According to numbers presented by First Southwest, the cost to taxpayers for the construction will be covered by a 2-cent tax increase. However, County Judge H.T. Wright questioned those numbers, because of the tremendous increase in property tax valuation this year.
“The numbers [the Caldwell County Appraisal District] gave us this year are so much higher than they were last year, we don”t know what that means yet,” Wright said.
Financing options will be explored in greater detail when the architects return plans and actual estimates for the construction.
In other Court business:
The Commissioners opted to keep an outdoor burning ban in place through the Fourth of July holiday. In addition to the burn ban, the County has imposed a ban on the sale or detonation of aerial fireworks described as “missiles with fins,” and “rockets with sticks” (launchable rockets and bottle rockets) through the holiday weekend.
Despite recent rains in parts of the county, conditions are still favorable for wildfires, and the Commissioners expressed concern that lifting the ban could endanger the property and the lives of county residents.
The County paid bills in the amount of $52,272.32, including $17,096 in indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.