by BRAD ROLLINS
The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday awarded a $424,000 contract to replace the failing roof on the county jail, two days before local officials will appear before the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to ask the state agency to lift the facility’s non-compliant status.
The new roof is among $1.4 million in repairs authorized by the court which they hope will correct deficiencies cited in a series of failed inspections this year. The roof work will be preformed by Austin-based Fifth Wall Roofing.
“It should be smooth sailing from this point forward,” said Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley.
On Oct. 30, TCJS Executive Director Adan Muñoz gave the county 30 days to report back with proof that problems identified in a September inspection were being corrected. Many of these stem from a leaky roof and a heating and ventilation system original to the 20-year-old building. Inspectors in April, and again in September, found mold and mildew in the kitchen area, cracked and buckled concrete floors and rusted metal throughout the building.
Then on Oct. 14, a day after the court gave initial approval to the repair work, state inspectors made another ostensibly unannounced visit, causing Sheriff Tommy Ratliff to close the cell used for housing violent prisoners, County Judge Elizabeth Sumter said.
In a letter sent to the Jail Standards Commission on Friday, Sumter outlined steps to address the problems, writing, “I assure you that our goal is to fully comply with the requirements of the commission now and in the future.”
The Jail Standards Commission meeting is 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5 in room 120 of the John H. Reagan building in Austin.
Despite their public confidence that the range of repairs should bring the jail up to state standards, some members of the court expressed continued wonderment at Muñoz’s statements in the press that the best solution lies in construction of a new jail. Pressing county officials to build a new facility, Ratliff says a new jail to meet longterm needs can be built for $20 million; Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton says the pricetag would be at least twice that.
“I keep hearing these distinct issues being blurred in the press,” Barton said.
San Marcos Mercury Managing Editor Brad Rollins writes about Hays County for the Hays Free Press where this story was originally published.