Hays County considering bond to address jail crowding

On May 13 Hays County Commissioners discussed a possible November bond that would address crowding issues at the county's 27-year-old jail.

The county is working with Broaddus & Associates on a study looking at how best to proceed in expanding the jail's capacity. At the meeting on May 13, commissioners approved $140,000 to extend a 2013 contract with Broaddus on a study related to the jail and county law enforcement center, which are each located off Uhland Road in San Marcos.

According to a previous study, the county, which currently has 362 beds at its county jail, will need 960 beds by 2033, assuming growth rates similar to those from the 1990s.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley said the jail will most likely remain at its current location. Conley said the county has been able to extend the life of the jail because of collaboration between judges, clerks and the district attorney's office.

"At some point in time you utilize something to 100 percent of its value," Conley said. "In my opinion, and I believe Commissioner Ingalsbe's opinion as well, we've reached that capacity on many fronts."

The study between Broaddus & Associates and Hays County will examine four possibilities: renovating the existing jail, building a new law enforcement center at the government center off Stagecoach Road in San Marcos, acquiring additional land on which to build a new jail, or acquiring land surrounding the current jail and building the new facility on portions of the newly acquired and current property.

Law enforcement officials at the meeting spoke in favor of constructing a new law enforcement center at the government center. Sheriff's Office Captain Mike Davenport said the proximity to the government center, which houses the district attorney's office and stores evidence, would be more efficient than the center's current location.

Davenport said the possibility of co-locating the San Marcos Police and Hays County Sheriff's Office, an option that was also discussed, would also allow for collaboration between the two entities.

When the 12-week study with Broaddus is completed, commissioners will select a preferred scenario.

Conley said the preliminary estimate of the bond total that would fund construction of a new jail facility is $100 million–$120 million. That bond amount, which Conley stressed was preliminary, could be funded through new growth in the county, without any increases to residents' property taxes or any effect on the county's credit rating.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant said the county does not have a lot of time to make a decision about the future of the jail. The jail population has been hovering near capacity for months.

"We are teetering on non-compliance," Whisenant said. "If we don't act expeditiously, I think we're going to find ourselves behind the so-called eight ball."
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