By Jon Schroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
LAMPASAS – While a committee to examine the construction of a new county jail in Lampasas has yet to finish forming, the facility's location won't factor into any discussion.
During the general information portion of Monday's commissioners' court meeting, County Judge Wayne Boultinghouse took time out to make clear the role of a committee in evaluating Lampasas' jail overcrowding situation.
"If you have people saying, 'We're going to redo this from square one,' we are not," he said, adding that the purpose of the committee is to decide what sort of jail will be built.
Boultinghouse said he had received a list of interested community members Monday morning, and neither the membership nor the first meeting date has been set yet.
The location for the jail has been decided – not in town, where Boultinghouse said it might not have room to expand if necessary – but just outside of the Lampasas city limits.
The county purchased land for the jail in May 2007, but at $525,000, some residents thought the price was too high. A bond issue to pay for the jail failed in November's election, and Lampasas officials still have no choice but to send prisoners out of county.
James Bennett, a longtime Lampasas resident, said in his mind the only solution is for the county to go back to the drawing board.
"When the county sells back that land for the same price they bought it at, we can go on from there," he said, noting that he'd be happy if the county wanted to build a 250-bed jail, so long as it's built on cheaper land.
According to Bennett, the previous owner "made a killing on the land."
Lampasas County Precinct 3 Commissioner Lowell Ivey said the county bought land for a new county jail after negotiating the price down from $600,000. Ivey said the land, bought by the county from Pat Cavness, Bernice Cavness and Harrell Clary last year; had been purchased from the family at a lower price before they realized its value and sold it to the county.
In addition, Ivey said the $525,000 purchase price was near the "midpoint" of the land prices available.
That doesn't change Bennett's mind. Without naming specific sellers, he said cheaper offers had been made available.
He said nothing other than a complete resale of the land will be satisfactory. Although he's a concerned resident, Bennett hadn't put his name in the hat for the committee as of Monday.
Even disregarding the overcrowding the Lampasas County jail has undergone in the last five years, Boultinghouse said there are plenty of other reasons the county needs a new jail, including the fact that only "variances" in state codes allow it to stay open.
The jail, built in 1971, is "tremendously" outdated, he said.
Contact Jon Schroeder at email@example.com or call (254) 547-0428