Hopkins County Commissioners Court has begun setting meeting dates to inform county voters about the need for a new county jail and the $16 million bond referendum that will coincide with the Nov. 5 general election.
Two weeks ago, the commissioners court called a bond election to allow voters to decide whether to fund the construction of a new county jail. At the time the election was called, the general election was only about eight weeks away.
With a limited amount of time to educate county voters about what the county is facing with the jail issue, the commissioners court and County Judge Chris Brown are busy setting up meetings around the county to share information about the jail, the bond issue and to answer questions from voters.
“We are in the process of lining out a schedule now,” Brown said Tuesday. “This week, the architects should get a lot of display boards to us so we can start holding these presentations. We are already lined up for a couple of community groups and clubs.”
Plans are also being made to hold meetings at community centers around the county.
“We do have a date for Sept. 24 at the Brashear Community Center at 6:30 p.m.,” he said. “We hope to line up several meetings at the other community centers.”
Brown encouraged voters in the county to contact the commissioner of their precinct to help get meeting dates and locations set.
“We would just like to make sure the information is out there and that everybody has an opportunity to understand the information,” Brown said. “It will be presented with all the facts so voters can make an informed decision when they go vote.”
If the bond issue is approved by voters in November, the county plans to build a new jail and sheriff's office on county-owned property immediately north of the existing jail and extending to Houston Street, where plans call for the entrance to the facility to be located.
The current county jail has long been plagued with problems ranging from air conditioning and electrical to plumbing and appliance issues as well as structural issues, according to Brown and Sheriff Butch Adams.
The county's existing100-bed jail has also been under close scrutiny by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards for those issues as well as overcrowding. The county has been housing prisoners in neighboring counties at an average cost of $35 per prisoner per day for a number of months.
Passage of the $16 million bond issue would mean an increase of between 6.5 cents and 7.25 cents per $100 property value in ad valorem taxes.
The county's tax rate is currently 56 cents per $100 property value, and the increase would take that rate up to 62 cents or 63 cents.
The accelerated time frame in which the election was called is due to recent legislation that requires such elections be held in conjunction with the general election in November.
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