Another jail proposal on the ballot in Smith Co. - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Another jail proposal on the ballot in Smith Co.

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) – They've struck out at the ballot box time and time again, but now, Smith County Commissioners are giving voters one more shot at a new jail.

On Tuesday, Commissioners approved a bond election in May for their latest proposed jail expansion. This time, the County is confident the plan will finally fix the broken record of rejection.

At just over 35 million dollars, this latest plan is the cheapest option the County has tossed up, so far. But, will it stick?

"This is far far better than the previous proposals," said voter Allen Martin.

Martin has been keeping track. He voted against previous plans, in large part because of the cost. The county already spends the most on jail related stuff, more than a quarter of it's budget.

Commissioner Jeff Warr says the proposal could cut those operations cost by one and a half million dollars a year, "We've cut it down to the absolute what we believe is the minimum and redesigned it."

This time around, voters will basically be deciding on whether or not to change how Smith County Jail business is done. They'll be moving the laundry and kitchen facilities to the low risk area, along with adding a video visitation area. The county is proposing adding 384 new beds, along with an in-house infirmary to save on healthcare costs.

"Saving money on inmate medical… the possibility having federal inmates in our jail to bring in more revenue… that's something we haven't experienced over the last five years or so," says Smith County Judge Joel Baker.

It's estimated the County spends close to 17 million dollars in moving and housing inmates in other counties.

Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith says, "This looks good this time, we hope that the public will accept this because we need to bring our prisoners home."

Martin says they can count on his vote this time, "This is a real good opportunity to improve the situation."

Should the bond pass, the average Smith County property tax payer would be out $13 a year for 15 years.

Commissioners say it's possible the bond could be paid off before the 15-year bond term.

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