Possible $16M bond issue in November
Hopkins County's aging jail has been the topic of discussion for county commissioners for a number of years and now county residents can get in on the dialogue as well.
County Judge Chris Brown and the commissioners court will host a town hall meeting Monday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center to discuss the current jail’s status, a potential new jail and the $16 million bond issue it would take to pay for a new facility.
Earlier this year, commissioners engaged the services of DRG Architect to begin a feasibility study and set out a timeline for a new jail.
The current jail has a limit of housing 100 prisoners and overcrowding has drawn attention from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards a number of times.
Along with capacity issues, the county is facing problems with the roof of the facility, a coming need to replace air conditioning, plumbing problems and structural issues.
Since the architectural study began, a number of things have happened to accelerate the plan, culminating in the town hall meeting Monday.
“There are a couple of things that have happened,” Brown said Tuesday morning. “DRG has been working on a site location for us. What we have figured out is that beside the old jail, we can completely build a new jail and sheriff's office.”
The site is adjacent to the current jail and extends north to Houston Street where, Brown says, the entrance to the sheriff's office will be located. There would also be a drive along the west side of the new jail to the current jail.
“It will fit — it will fit very well without acquiring any new land,” Brown said. “We've got the location pinned down now.”
With the space afforded by a new jail, the plan is to tear down the old jail when it is no longer needed or when there is a need to expand the proposed new facility.
“We can potentially quadruple our current capacity in the location we have right now,” Brown said.
A new jail will not be cheap.
“We've got the final drawings. The jail will fit and we can totally build it without demolishing the old jail, so there is no relocation,” he said. “Everything fits until we are ready to move into the new location, but it's going to cost about $16 million. Those are the estimates that are coming in.”
Brown said the process has reached the point where county commissioners need public input on the jail proposal.
“We are asking the public to come out,” he said of the meeting.
Representatives from DRG Architects, Sheriff Butch Adams and the county commissioners court will present the drawings and the budget for a new jail.
“The sheriff will be there, the commissioners court will be there to answer questions and listen to feedback,” Brown said. “The timeline on this, basically what has happened, our intent was to go for a bond election in May.”
The option of a bond election in May is no longer available for counties — it can only be held in November.
“So, if we are going to call a bond election, it has to be done next week,” the county judge said. “What we want is public input to decide whether we need to call the election or not. If we call it or we don't, there are still a lot of meetings that have to happen and a lot of public input we have to take, and there is a lot of information we want to make sure the public has. But, unfortunately, we are up against a time crunch, and we have time for one initial meeting before we make the decision to call this bond issue election.”
A $16 million bond issue would mean an increase of between 6.5 and 7.25 percent per $100 property value in ad valorem taxes.
The county's tax rate is .56 per $100 property value currently and the increase would take that rate up to .62 or .63 per $100 in property value.
All county residents are encouraged to attend the meeting.
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