Justice Center opens amid security concerns
By LPR Staff
After a brief business meeting on Monday morning, the Caldwell County Commissioners hosted a grand opening celebration for the $11 million Caldwell County Judicial Center, formerly referred to as “the old WalMart,” on Highway 183 in Lockhart.
Dozens of visitors, along with many attorneys and cl
ients who had business in Caldwell County’s District and County courts, had the opportunity to tour the building, including the courtrooms, the County and District Clerk’s Offices, the Probation Department and the several specialized spaces throughout the building, which was designed to centralize court business and allow enough space for Caldwell County’s legal system to grow.
Some visitors noticed, however, that despite the construction of a detention area meant to house Caldwell County Jail inmates, the inmates were seated, in a group, inside the District Courtroom. The reason, according to representatives of the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department, is that the detention area has not yet been approved by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (Jail Standards).
According to documents requested from the Caldwell County Jail after the grand opening, the detention area at the Justice Center failed its initial Jail Standards inspection because “several areas of non-compliance were found during the inspection and need to be addressed prior to an approval for occupancy being issued.”
Because of those areas of non-compliance, Sheriff Daniel Law said, inmates cannot currently be housed in the detention area, or the County runs the risk of having the Caldwell County Jail shut down temporarily.
Several of the problem areas appear to be results of the date of the inspection, Nov. 21, 2014, at which time construction of the facility had yet to be completed, including the fact that the local code inspector had not yet reviewed the property, and open junction boxes were still located in some of the cells.
Other problems, such as a lack of “paper passes” for attorneys to provide documents to clients, and the fact that direct vision into the holding cells from the attorney visitation area is not prevented, could take more time to fix, Law said.
Regardless of the concerns in the detention area, other residents of the building said they were pleased with the overall project, and happy with the new, expanded space they have been allotted to perform their duties in service to the community.
It was unclear, at press time, what timeline had been established for correcting the Jail Standards concerns, and a request for all documentation relating to inspections of the facility yielded only the information from the Nov. 21 inspection.
In brief news:
The Commissioners approved the purchase of bonds for several seated and newly-elected county officials, as well as several employees.
The Court voted, at the recommendation of Emergency Management Coordinator Martin Ritchey, to leave the burn ban off. Because the County is not currently under a burn ban, this leaves the door open, presently, for safe use of legal fireworks within unincorporated areas of the county through the holiday season.
They approved an action to remove “volunteer emergency medical personnel” from the county’s workers compensation benefit package. This move was necessary, according to County Auditor Larry Roberson, because the county no longer has “volunteer emergency medical personnel” since the Caldwell County Medic Assist Team was disbanded, and most of those personnel have transferred to coverage under the volunteer fire departments, which are still eligible for the workers compensation package.
The panel approved the beginning of a performance bond for public streets and drainage in the Sunrise Meadows Subdivision, and released the bond for public improvements within the Terra Verde Subdivision. The Caldwell County Unit Road System will now be permanently responsible for road maintenance in Terra Verde.
Commissioner Alfredo Munoz will replace John Cyrier as the County’s representative to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Board. Munoz has been shadowing Cyrier for over a year for the meetings, and said he is prepared to step in at this time.
The Caldwell County Commissioners Court routinely meets on the second, third and fourth Monday of each month at 9 a.m. In 2014, the meetings were held in the Conference and Training Center at the LW Scott Annex, but consideration has been made to move the meetings to the second floor courtroom of the Historic Caldwell County Courthouse. Follow the Post-Register into 2015 for additional information on the Caldwell County Commissioners Court.