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County approves funding for 'programming' for new jail | News | hcnews.com – Hood County News

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Lots of sunshine. High near 90F. Winds SSW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible..
Partly cloudy. Low 66F. Winds S at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible.
Updated: October 22, 2022 @ 9:57 am
Hood County Law Enforcement Center

Senior Staff Writer
Hood County Law Enforcement Center
Faced with a worsening problem that isn’t going to go away, the Hood County Commissioners Court has taken the first step toward building a new jail even though the elected officials have not yet determined how it will be funded.
At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, the court approved one of two “programming” options offered for consideration.
Programming is work that is done prior to architectural drawings. It determines what the needs are and how many square feet are required to meet those needs.
Option 1 was to commission programming for a new facility, at a cost not to exceed $85,000.
Option 2 was programming for renovation of the existing 54,000-square-foot building as well as a 200-bed addition. That option, for $104,000, was more expensive because of challenges involved in rehabbing the existing building, which has been determined to be in poor condition.
With either option, the goal is for Hood County to ultimately have a 400-bed jail, which is about double its current capacity.
Ryan Rosborough of AG/CM, a professional management firm, was present to provide information about the options and to answer questions.
AG/CM was commissioned by the county to assess the Hood County Law Enforcement Center. The resulting report, which was discussed at a recent regular meeting of the Commissioners Court, estimated a cost of $25.5 million just to address the most serious issues at the aging LEC.
Renovating the building would not solve the problem of inadequate capacity. In order to have enough beds to prevent having to transport inmates to other counties, an addition would have to be constructed.
At the end of the almost 45-minute-long discussion, the court voted 4-1 to go with Option 1, programming for a new facility.
“I don’t want to put any more money in that (current) jail,” Massingill said.
The motion made by Precinct 3 Commissioner Jack Wilson and seconded by Precinct 2 Commissioner Ron Cotton passed with the votes of Massingill and Precinct 4 Commissioner Dave Eagle.
Precinct One Commissioner Kevin Andrews voted nay.
Andrews expressed concerns about costs. He raised the possibility of saving money by copying other jails that are “functional.”
In response, Rosborough offered a cautionary tale.
He said that his company is involved in a public safety facility that is under construction in another city. Officials there “did exactly that,” he said to Andrews, meaning that they copied another building thinking they would save money by not creating their own plans.
“They’re now at about $1.2 million worth of change orders,” he said.
Rosborough explained that as the facility was being built, officials realized that certain aspects of it did not fit with their needs.
DISCUSSION
Prior to the vote being taken, the consultant told the county judge and commissioners that AG/CM reached out to “several trusted architectural firms” in Texas that have “a lot of jail experience.”
“This is pretty specialized work,” he said.
Rosborough stated that after reviewing three such companies, AG/CM felt that DRG Architects in San Antonio was the “most qualified” to handle the programming.
He emphasized that even with DRG handling the programming, the county can choose a different firm to do the architectural work.
Using calculations based on a $50 million facility, Rosborough said that an architectural firm would typically charge about $150,000 for programming services.
“The good thing about this, the carrot there is, hey, work with us. It incentivizes them,” he said of contracting for separate programming services.
Massingill asked what the county would get in return.
Rosborough replied that the “deliverable” would be a 100-page program document that the county would own and would then be used to calculate construction costs.
He said that the document could be used even if the county decides to delay the project.
Rosborough also stated that the programming work could likely be completed by the end of the year.
“You’re putting the recipe together and then handing it off to the chef,” he explained.
There was some back-and-forth discussion, with Sheriff Roger Deeds weighing in.
Wilson noted that the current LEC is 27 years old and that construction will take three to four years.
“The facility is already falling apart and requiring full-time maintenance personnel,” he said.
Wilson also brought up the high cost of having to transport inmates to other jails because of overcrowding, a cost that has been averaging about $350,000 per year and does not include such things as deputy pay, gasoline, and wear and tear on county vehicles.
Eagle noted that it also costs money to house inmates locally.
To that, Cotton replied that there is no guarantee that other jails will continue to accept Hood County’s inmates.
Deeds stated that “over time, the cost is going to go up and up and up” with inmates “scattered all over the state of Texas.”
“It would be better not to mess with that jail that we’ve got,” he said, adding, “I don’t know what the right answer is, but we need to do something pretty quick.”
Although the agenda item dealt solely with the cost of programming and not the cost of the entire project, Eagle expressed the view that the project should go before voters as a bond question.
kcruz@hcnews.com
Senior Staff Writer
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