County to seek up to $19 million for jail expansion
Polk County Enterprise, March 2007
LIVINGSTON – Polk County Commissioners voted to notify taxpayers that they intend to issue up to $19 million in certificates of obligation to fund expansion of the county jail in a meeting Tuesday.
The resolution doesn’t mean the county is borrowing that amount of money, Pct. 4 Commissioner C. T. “Tommy” Overstreet said.
Certificates of obligations are bonds issued by public entities that do not require voter approval.
“We are notifying the public that in a month or so we are authorizing borrowing up to $19 million for a law enforcement center,” County Judge John Thompson said.
“We have been discussing expansion of our jail for a couple of years,” Thompson said. “We have a plan in process to expand where we are. There are still some items we are not able to put a price on – land, dirt moving and other issues.
The project will likely be close to $17 million, Thompson added.
“It’s important for everybody to understand we would prefer not have this obligation,” Thompson said. “The state requires the county to hold inmates.”
The county jail houses inmates for the city, state and county law enforcement agencies until trial and continues holding convicted inmates until they are transferred to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Institutional Division, Thompson said.
Overstreet added that the county is required to hold inmates for TDCJ up to 45 days without reimbursement.
The existing county jail is certified to handle 119 inmates. The addition would include 230 beds, a new kitchen and laundry, according to Gary Adams, a planner and consultant with Adams & Fisher Architects.
The Texas Commission on Jail Standards recommended Polk County expand to accommodate 340 inmates in order to meet anticipated needs over the next 15 years.
A new sallyport (an entry area gated at both ends), receiving and processing area and sheriff’s office are also part of the expansion, Adams said.
The price hasn’t been finalized yet because planners have been trying to condense the addition to fit on the existing site, Adams said.
“That’s not going to work. We need some more land and we have to nail it down further to know what the land costs will be,” Adams said.
In response to a question from an audience member, County Auditor Ray Stelly said preliminary plans have the expansion situated just south of the existing jail.
Once the 119 beds at the jail are full, the county has a contract to place 24 additional inmates at the private correctional facility for $24 a day.
In January, demand for cell space filled those contract beds, forcing the county to seek additional out-of-county space, which costs $44 per inmate per day.
During January, contract jail space cost Polk County about $15,000, Thompson said.
“Start doing the math,” Thompson said. “At $44 a day per inmate and medical costs above that. It’s hard to look at $19 million, but it’s even harder to look at $30,000 a month going to another county.”
Thompson also assured a visitor at Tuesday’s meeting that the county will preserve a historic cemetery and former church site located near the existing jail.
“The cemetery will be fenced and taken care of. It will be in better shape when we get through than it is right now,” Thompson said.
In other business, commissioners approved a reimbursement resolution to replenish fund balances made to cover capital expenses paid throughout the year.
The resolution covered about $681,000 in renovations to the county annex complex.
Other items included architect fees for preliminary designs of the jail expansion, a maintenance engineering truck and bridge inspections in Precincts 3 and 4.
Commissioners also unanimously approved the purchase of two 150-kilowatt generators to provide emergency power to the county office annex.
The $138,975 purchase price includes installation and moving an existing generator to the tax office.
All three generators are fueled by natural gas.
The facility study group, a committee appointed to evaluate suggested capital improvement projects, got two new members Tuesday.
Eddie Martin was appointed to represent the City of Livingston and Debbie Cooper will represent the Merchants Guild.
Commissioners also approved Sheriff Kenneth Hammack’s request for a credit card to cover travel expenses incurred by deputies transporting prisoners.
Previously, county policy required deputies to seek reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses for long-distance transfers after they returned.
Commissioners also authorized County Clerk Barbara Middleton to move forward with any remaining interlocal agreements with cities and school districts preparing for May 12 elections.