By Jon Schroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE – Coryell County officials and residents were updated on construction prospects for a proposed new county jail or expansion to the current building on town square during two meetings on Tuesday.
During the first meeting, Texas Association of Counties Director of Operations Gene Terry spoke at length about likely options for downsizing the inmate burden Coryell bears, weighing in on electronic monitoring, litigation options and bonds.
Terry didn't offer much hope for avoiding some sort of expanded facility or new construction, saying that instead it might be possible to delay making the investment. Electronic monitoring could be used to shrink Coryell's inmate population, he said.
That suggestion wasn't met with much interest, the commissioners having already considered electronic monitoring in January.
"The people (nearly all felons and repeat offenders) we've got in jail, we don't want out of jail," Coryell County Sheriff Johnny Burks said.
Later in the day, Precinct 4 Commissioner Elizabeth Taylor said likewise: "It was just not remotely feasible at that time."
Not much has changed since they last discussed electronic monitoring at length on Jan. 18, when Jail Administrator Kenneth Green searched his jail roster and found only two inmates who would be eligible for the program.
Now, during the jail's slow season, there are only six inmates being housed out of county (86 occupy the Coryell County Jail, which has an on-paper capacity of 92), but Coryell has averaged 25 to 30 out-of-county inmates for most of the year.
By the end of the meeting, Terry said it had become clear that Coryell has already taken nearly all the steps possible to minimize the number of prisoners taking up beds in the jail.
"I'm really impressed," he said, noting that at some point, adding beds may be the only option left. "They're doing what we're trying to teach."
During the second meeting of the day, the new Jail Options Review Committee heard from DRG Architects representative Wayne Gondeck, who summarized his feasibility study with two expansion options, each including a total of 240 beds.
Building a new jail, not including the price of land, will cost about $16.3 million, but expanding the current facility will cost almost as much, with a $15.8 million price tag.
The third option, though not much time was spent on it Tuesday, is to continue sending an increasing prisoner load out of the county, where a $38.16 daily prisoner cost is increased by another $44, officials said. But that's becoming increasingly difficult; other jails in the area are becoming overcrowded, too.
As Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Wall said in closing, "We're going to have to make some decisions."
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7475.