Hays County voters may have at least one or as many as two major collections of projects to consider funding when they go to the polls in November.
On Aug. 9, the Hays County Commissioners Court discussed calling a bond to be placed on the November ballot that would address the county’s aging law-enforcement infrastructure. The court may add another component to the bond that would fund improvements to roads throughout the county.
The court has until Aug. 16 to call the bond, and commissioners directed staff to put an item on the Aug. 16 agenda to potentially place both items on the November ballot.
Pct. 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe said the court has worked hard to ensure it is not overbuilding or overspending. She said she wants to present a bond package that will be palatable to voters.
“We want to be able to build something that is functional, that is efficient, but we also want to be able to present to our voters in November —if the court chooses to go that way—something that … our voters might say they can support,” Ingalsbe said.
The county has been discussing potential improvements to law-enforcement and public safety facilities for more than a decade. Conley said when he came into office in 2005 one of his first meetings was with former County Sheriff Don Montague regarding public safety facilities needs.
“What we have done in this county collectively that has taken all our efforts is to squeeze every single bit of value out of the current assets associated with our communication, law enforcement and certainly our jail facility,” Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said. “That wasn’t easy work. That took collaboration of many different elected offices.”
Hays County District Attorney Wes Mau said the DA’s office is primarily concerned with ensuring justice is delivered in cases that come through the court, and the overcrowding at the jail can make that difficult.
“One of the things that concerns me about the overcrowding at the jail is that it puts a lot of pressure on the district attorney’s office and working together with the sheriff to try to clear out inmates from the jail as best we can,” Mau said. “That does end up putting some of the emphasis more on clearing out the jail population than it does on really seeking justice in the case and looking at the cases individually.”
The offices of the sheriff and district attorney have worked to ensure that misdemeanants and other offenders are not held in the jail longer than is necessary under the law.
ECM International, the county’s public safety facilities consultant, is recommending a $108 million construction package that would renovate the existing jail on Uhland Road in San Marcos and construct new law-enforcement and colocated communication centers near the Hays County Government Center on Stagecoach Trail in San Marcos.
ECM International’s proposal would add 192 beds to the existing jail, which is currently over capacity. Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said as of Aug. 9 the county had more than 100 inmates being held outside Hays County because the county jail is at capacity.
The county also discussed a collection of road projects totaling $119.6 million-$150 million.
Among the projects in the potential road bond package are the widening of Dacy Lane north of Kyle from Beebe Road to Windy Hill Road for $12 million; the extension of Robert S. Light Boulevard from FM 967 to FM 1626 in Buda for $6.2 million; safety improvements on FM 3237 from RR 12 to FM 150 for $14 million; and acquisition of right of way and utilities work for the realignment of FM 150 from 2770 to I-35 near Yarrington Road for $11.8 million.
In addition to the specific projects listed in the draft project list money may be allocated to “county-wide buckets” to address broad issues such as drainage, nonmotorized transportation facilities and environmental and conservation measures.
Dan Wegmiller, the county’s financial advisor, indicated the county could issue up to $250 million of bonds without necessitating a tax rate increase, Conley said. The current public safety facilities and roads packages being discussed total $227.6 million-$258 million.