By Jon Schroeder
The Cove Herald
GATESVILLE — Coryell County might be getting a new jail. At least, that’s what the county’s Jail Options Review Committee is recommending.
Representing the committee, Jim Schmitz talked to the judge and commissioners about the group’s findings. The committee was initially tasked with looking at whether to expand the current facility, build a new one or do nothing.
On Monday, Schmitz said the committee recommends:
Building a new jail, not expanding the current one.
Planning for 240 inmates while using a design which could be expanded to 480 inmates.
Purchasing 15 or more acres of land (location unspecified) for the jail.
Using certificates of obligation to fund the project, which initial estimates priced at $16.3 million.
Coryell County Judge John Firth was quick to say that no decision has been made — and none will be until after more resident participation in the process.
“No one is pre-assuming any decision at this point,” he said. “We look forward to as much community involvement as possible.”
Two town hall meetings have been scheduled to discuss the committee’s findings, at 7 p.m. Aug. 11 in Copperas Cove City Council chambers and at 7 p.m. Aug. 12 in the District 52 court room in Gatesville. Committee members, along with DRG Architects representatives Wayne Gondeck and Gary Adams, will attend both meetings.
Firth said later on Monday that he, the county commissioners, Coryell County Sheriff Johnny Burks and Jail Administrator Kenneth Green would all be present at both meetings. Green, Precinct 1 Commissioner Jack Wall and Precinct 4 Commissioner Elizabeth Taylor represented the county on the eight-member committee as well.
When he made his presentation, Schmitz had not seen the most recent tax figures (property tax rolls were certified on Friday), but based on last year’s taxable values, he said the county will likely have to increase its tax rate in a substantial way. The current tax rate, at 39.9 cents per $100 valuation, could jump by almost one-fourth.
“You’re probably looking at seven, eight cents,” Schmitz said.
In an executive session at the end of the meeting on Monday, the commissioners discussed several specific sites for a new jail. Firth declined to air the locations publicly, saying that making public the locations now could drive up land prices.
“What we don’t want to do and what Texas law allows us not to do is discuss specific land,” he said. Firth added that the commissioners are attempting in their discussions to keep open the possibility of a second district court, located in Copperas Cove “maybe 15 or 20 years down the road.”
In other business, the commissioners:
Approved the purchase and distribution of 58 new Very High Frequency and 800 MHz radios, which will be given to local agencies. The roughly $145,000 being spent on the radios comes down from the Department of Homeland Security, through the Central Texas Council of Governments.
Reappointed Samantha Anderson and Martha Jackson to serve two-year terms on the Central Counties Center Board of Trustees.
Opted to drop consideration of a land purchase near the Gatesville senior center, citing concerns about the expense and time likely to be spent resolving a difficult title situation.
Discussed the burn ban, which will remain in place. Judge Firth announced that the county’s Keetch-Byram drought index is above 600, which he said is notable particularly in light of several large fires over the weekend.
Contact Jon Schroeder at email@example.com or (254) 501-7475.