San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

September 27th, 2010
Hays County jail passes surprise state inspection

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Hays County Sheriff Tommy Ratliff, speaks with speaks with Broaddus and Associates Project Manager Phillip Buterbaugh, left, and Jeff Bradley of HDR Architecture, center, outside a meeting of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

In an indication that the compliance problems of the past year are passing, the Hays County Jail passed an annual surprise inspection conducted earlier this month by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS).

TCJS Executive Director Adan Muñoz said the county’s jail is in substantially better shape than before the commissioners court began fixing the facility. The commissioners court replaced the jail’s roof and renovated its kitchen, which TCJS had ordered closed last November.

The jail failed multiple inspections since April 2009, but passed a TCJS inspection on June 4 this year. Muñoz said his agency does not issue scores, only passes or fails facilities.

“I’m very pleased to see that we passed and did well,” said Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-Wimberley). “It means that the cooperation and investment of the court, and working with the employees and the sheriff at the sheriff’s office, is working. We just need to continue moving down that path. Now we are implementing what we are calling initial improvements that we need to make, like the (air conditioning) and some of these things. Our next step will be to develop a plan and a timeline on moving forward with the expansion and the renovations of the jail facility, along with expansions to the law enforcement center as well.”

Conley is chair of the jail facility assessment committee. The law enforcement center to which he referred houses the sheriff’s patrol division and is also referred to as the public safety building.

Commissioners allocated $2 million in reserve funds for emergency repairs to the Hays County Jail in late August. Commissioners are considering more than $30 million in additional improvements to the jail and the nearby patrol division headquarters.

Muñoz said any major structural modifications to the jail must first be approved by TCJS. Muñoz said he has not seen a proposal from the county to renovate the building.

Conley said project manager firm Broaddus and Associates (B&A), which is managing jail repairs and other county capital projects, has no doubt taken into account whatever rules TCJS applies to renovation efforts.

Commissioners are contemplating spending $23.8 million to increase the capacity of the jail to accommodate 96 more prisoners and allow for a future expansion to 700 total beds. The jail now has 362 beds. B&A conducted a physical assessment of the jail and concluded it could be expanded to 700 beds.

Also proposed is an expansion of the public safety building adjacent to the jail for an estimated cost of $7.4 million.

“It’s good to know for the long term that we have the ability well into the future to hold many prisoners there as we expand,” Conley said.

Conley said the short term improvements to the jail would take “a couple months,” and he said the court would probably make a decision regarding the $31 million remaining in contemplated expenditures in the winter.

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