Coryell County to hold town hall meetings next week for new jail facility
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Coryell County Commissioners will be hosting two town hall meetings for county residents to learn about the proposed new County Jail construction project, with one in Gatesville on Tuesday, March 30 and one in Copperas Cove on Thursday, April 1.
Residents will hear from county officials and the sheriff’s department about the current jail facility and the proposed new facility, as well as the impact of the new facility county taxpayers, if voters approve the bond for the jail in the Saturday, May 1 special election.
Residents will able to view proposed facility drawings and floor plans at the town hall.
There will also be a presentation on the current jail facility versus the proposed new facility with a question-and-answer session to follow.
The town halls are scheduled for Tuesday, March 30, 2021 at 7 p.m. at the Gatesville City Auditorium and Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 7 p.m. at the Copperas Cove Civic Center.
The presentations will also be livestreamed on the Coryell County Sheriff Facebook Page.
Jail construction is estimated to cost nearly $30 million to be paid for through the May 1 bond election, with early voting from April 19 through April 27.
If voters approve the bond issuance, the county tax rate would increase by approximately 8.6 cents per $100 valuation, with the debt portion increasing of 6.6 cents per $100 valuation, and maintenance and operations portion increasing by 2 cents per $100 valuation.
The projected estimate for the overall maintenance and operations of the new jail is $3,490,101.83, which is higher than the current county budget for the jail for fiscal year 2021. The current budget on the county’s website shows that $3.29 million was budgeted for the county jail, which also includes the $1,117,500 budgeted for out-of-county prisoner board to house inmates in other counties’ jails.
Voters would also be required to approve the increase in taxes necessary to fund the maintenance and operations and debt from the new jail facility. The current county tax rate is 53.11 cents per $100 valuation. If the county exceeds a tax rate of 57.4 cents per $100, then voter approval is required. The 8.6 cent increase for the jails and debt issuance would lead to fiscal year 2022’s tax rate being 61.71 cents per $100, which would trigger the tax rate election.
The current Coryell County Jail has a capacity of 92 inmates and houses its overflow of inmates out of county. According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards’ Abbreviated Population Report dated Jan. 1, 2021, Coryell County was at nearly 97 percent capacity, with 89 inmates out of a capacity of 92, as well as 105 pre-trial felons, five convicted felons, four parole violators with a new charge, 15 pretrial misdemeanors, two bench warrants and 12 pretrial state jail felonies) SJF.
Coryell County has signed interlocal agreements with Milam County, Burnet County, Limestone County, Mills County and others to house its inmates at a per diem rate that ranges from $45 per day or more per inmate.
In fiscal year 2019-2020, Coryell County spent $1,083,809 on housing its prisoners at other county jails and spent a total of $3,097,709.25 for the county jail and other associated costs.
The county’s cost for housing inmates out of county has continued to increase over the past decade. In 2014, the county spent $500,000, and by 2016, that amount had gone down to $425,000. In 2017, the amount increased to $700,000 and increased to $875,000 in 2018 and again to $925,000 in 2019. In 2020, the amount had surpassed $1 million.
The total estimated cost for 200 total inmates and 17 additional jailers plus all associated expenses would be $3,577,701.83. For a fully staffed, 250-bed facility, the total cost for the jail, at capacity, would be $3,928,330.36. The debt service cost to the county would be approximately $1.9 million annually for 20 years, for a total cost not to exceed $30.9 million.
In November 2019, the County Commissioners selected Southwest Architects, Inc. as the architectural firm to design the new jail facility out of seven firms that responded to the Request for Qualifications posted by the county.
The designs by SWA are for an 80,000-square-foot 250-bed facility to be located on a 33.37-acre plat that the county owns on F.M. 929.