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Jail tops county priorities

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

The Caldwell County Jail was the main topic of discussion during the Caldwell County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday.
Inmate housing and medical care costs the county thousands of dollars each month with no sign of any relief in sight, according to Sheriff Daniel Law. Because the Caldwell County Jail is currently o

vercrowded, the County is forced to house inmates in other jails, at a cost nearing $79,000 per month. Law said he has tried for some time to work with the Commissioners to develop a plan to ease jail overcrowding, but the county”s financial state has prevented the construction of a new facility.
Information compiled by County Judge H.T. Wright suggests that the county has three options in dealing with the jail overcrowding problem: to do nothing and “hope the problem corrects itself;” to build a small addition to meet current and future needs; or to build a large addition that will allow Caldwell County to house inmates from other counties, state and Federal prisons.
“Option one isn”t really an option,” Wright said. “Caldwell County can”t afford to keep spending this money to house these inmates in other places.”
Wright said this year”s budget for out-of-county inmate housing was around $150,000, a total which the County is likely to exceed well before the end of the fiscal year.
Other suggestions include building smaller, temporary structures which will house around 48 inmates. Apparently, the County has funds available to build one such structure immediately. However, because the jail population runs, on average, 60 heads over capacity, building only one temporary structure will do little, if anything to solve the root problem.
Because any possible solution to the jail population problem could result in a significant tax increase in the next fiscal year, the Commissioners opted to form a task force, including members of the Commissioners Court, judges, attorneys, county and municipal law enforcement officials and members of the general public to discuss the options and attempt to find a solution.
The task force will meet for the first time on Monday, May 22.
In other jail business, the Commissioners approved an agreement with an Austin-based physician to provide medical services at the jail. The contract will supplement the existing contract with Seton Medical Center.
Currently, medical concerns at the jail are attended to by a “practicing physician”s assistant (PPA).” Sometimes, as often as five times each week, Law said, the PPA sends inmates to the hospital for testing or to see the on-call medical doctor.
Law, along with Captain Keith Jeffrey and Medical Officer Phillip Smith, petitioned the Court to enter the contract with Dr. Jim Chudleigh, currently acts as the “Jail Medical Doctor” for the Hays County Jail. One day each week, or more often in emergencies, Chudleigh will see inmates at the jail.
In brief Court news:
The Commissioners approved tax collection and investment reports.
They discussed working with contractors and insurance agents to repair damage to the roof of the Scott Annex Building. The damage, evidently, was caused during last week”s hailstorms.
The panel granted a variance for a landowner to sell a 4.75-acre tract of property off County Road 227.
The County paid bills in the amount of $116,884.65, including $12,330 for indigent legal defense.
The Caldwell County Commissioners meet at 9 a.m. on the second, third and fourth Mondays of each month in Room 100 of the Caldwell County Courthouse.

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