By Jessica P. Masongsong

Killeen Daily Herald

Continuing rainfall has caused some delays in construction of the new Bell County jail facility being built in Belton.

County Judge Jon Burrows said it has rained for 48 days, and the construction company, Skanska, will need about 30 days to make it up, provided the weather cooperates and the rainfall dissipates. The jail is still projected to be completed by August 2008 or September 2008 at the latest.

"At the most, we'll have to push the opening back to September. We may be able to catch up if there are some really good days, but completion is really not delayed," Burrows said.

Burrows said the bad weather makes it difficult to get equipment in and out of the construction site. Wet weather also makes for unsafe working conditions for the construction crews.

Groundbreaking for the facility was in February. Commissioners approved a guaranteed maximum price of more than $37 million for the jail. Since there is a cap on the price, the delay does not cost the county any additional money for the 658-bed facility.

While the delays may not be costing a cent, housing inmates in other counties does have a price.

Due to overcrowding during the summer months, Bell County has to lease space from Limestone and Milam counties.

"We pay Limestone County $44 a day per inmate, and Milam County gets $45 a day per inmate," said Robert Patterson, Bell County jail adminstrator.

No one is really sure of why the jail population cycles but one popular theory is that, during the summer months, there is more daylight and warmer weather. People get out and about and have more opportunity to get into trouble, Burrows and Patterson surmised.

Last summer when jail inmate numbers spiked, Bell County spent $175,000 to lease space from other counties.

Commissioners approved the new county jail in April 2006 to reduce overcrowding.

"The quicker we get this done, the better off we will be," Burrows said in February.

Contact Jessica Masongsong at or call (254) 501-7553

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