Roads close, making way for next phase of Smith Co. Jail constru - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Roads close, making way for next phase of Smith Co. Jail construction


Beginning Monday, Tyler road closures went into effect as construction on the new county jail continues.

Spring Street, between Elm Street and Erwin Street will remain closed for the foreseeable future.  The blockade is a safety measure put in place as crews bring in heavy machinery to help construct the next phase of the Smith County Jail.

For those who live or work in downtown Tyler, the sound of progress is loud and hard to ignore.

"Some towers are going up and some steel beams are being augered down into the ground about 35-40 feet down," explains Smith County Precinct 1 Commissioner Jeff Warr.

Commissioner Warr says the project is on budget and not far behind schedule. In about a year, the new jail should be fully functioning and the landscape of downtown Tyler will look a little different.

"We're pleased with the progress we're making, and once the project comes up out of the ground, by late summer, early fall... it'll really start taking up speed," he says.

It'll offer 384 more beds, an infirmary, secure book-in area, and will give jailers direct supervision.

"Instead of individual cells where they have to go look into the window, here the jailers will be able to observe all of the inmates at one time from a picket area," Warr says.

Sheriff Larry Smith plans to use what would be empty beds in the new facility to save taxpayers money.

"We've already begun negotiations with the U.S. Marshal's Office to house as many as 100 federal inmates that will be tried here in federal court in Tyler anyway," says Sheriff Smith.

By keeping those inmates just down the road, fewer taxpayer funds will be spent on transportation for inmates and their public defenders. But plans for potential profit don't stop there.

"I've been talking to immigration to possibly be a short term holding facility for inmates who are awaiting deportation," Sheriff Smith adds.

Each federal inmate housed would be more dollars earned for the county, helping pay off the cost of the jail even more quickly than expected.

The other part of the jail expansion project is being built at the low-risk facility on Highway 69 North. There a new kitchen, laundry facility and video visitation center is just days from being complete. Commissioner Warr says that that part of the project finished considerably under budget.

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