Costs On Jail Proposals Revealed - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2/20/06-Tyler

Costs On Jail Proposals Revealed

It will be at least another week before Smith County commissioners decide what to put in front of the voters when it comes to the jail. A firm hired by the county to design and build the jail presented its plans and costs to commissioners this morning. Commissioners are still deciding between a downtown location and the site located on County Road 378, also known as American Legion Rd., and County Road 381. That's about 3 miles north-east of downtown Tyler.

"I think as far as the numbers are concerned, clearly there is a choice here," said County Judge Becky Dempsey. Judge Dempsey says the practical solution is the horizontal design. It would mainly be a one-story jail, built on 70 acres of land. The downtown design would be five stories and would sit on nearly six acres. The price tag of the horizontal design is $74,893,000. The downtown project would cost $90,950,000.

Running the downtown jail would also mean a higher operational cost, according to County Auditor Ann Wilson. The horizontal design would cost $22,769,855 each year to operate. The downtown design has a projected cost of $22,794,600. The difference between both is $24,745 per year.

Those who live near the horizontal design say despite the price, keeping the jail downtown is in the best interest of Smith County residents. "Because they got everything here. So why sit about six miles out when they have to take the inmates out there when you can take them three or four blocks," said concerned resident Martha Welch.

A group that wants to keep the jail downtown say it plans to see how to cut down the building costs. "The big question which relates to the downtown building is we're building a Taj Mahal for inmates. What we have to do is look at what is the cost of building a functional jail," said Master Plan Resource Committee member Martin Heines.

Now, the commissioners have two options. They will either decide on one location for approval by the voters on the May ballot. Or, they will put both locations on the ballot for the voters to decide. As far as the time frame for building the jail, the horizontal design would take 24 months. The downtown location 30 months.

Oralia Ortega reporting, ortega@kltv.com

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