New jail vs. new schools: an ongoing battle

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Plans for a new Smith County jail proposal are already in the works, but a school district's decision could throw a kink in the works.

The, seemingly age-old Smith County battle could wage on again come election time: new schools versus new jail.

battle lines are already being drawn... ...and early... ...from the bench...

"If TISD puts on a bond election at the same time, then I see the jail failing," said Precinct 4 Commissioner JoAnn Hampton.

"Those cute little rosy-cheeked kids, or a bunch of people in our jail house? I know who they're going to vote for and so do you," said Precinct 2 Commissioner Bill McGinnis.

"They're going to win every time," said voter, Charles Smart. "They have so far."

Smart says if the last $60,000,000 jail plan was not up against Tyler ISD's nearly $125,000,000 plan, it may have passed.

The idea of another ballot face-off is weighing heavy.

So, would a TISD bond dictate how the county proceeds?

"I clearly would be concerned about it and I'd be thinking about it," said Smith County Judge Joel Baker. "It would have to factor into our decision-making process to some extent...I think everyone on the court strongly believes in obtaining voter approval."

Commissioners proposed two jail plans four years ago. A special jail finance committee actually recommended issuing Certificates of Obligation as the most cost-efficient way to build. Commissioners decided to call an election, anyway, and voters shot down the bond. That was two years after Tyler voters approved a $96,000,000 TISD bond package. Two years later, voters would shoot down another jail plan, but give TISD $125,000,000 for five new schools.

"It's a concern, but obviously, each package has to stand on it's own merit," said Baker.

The district says it has already purchased land for a new middle school. The school board is also expected to address future facilities needs, including the possibility of more school bonds.

TISD board members held a workshop meeting earlier Thursday afternoon.

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