New Smith County Commissioner's Court Faces Jail Problem - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


New Smith County Commissioner's Court Faces Jail Problem

Newly sworn in Smith County Judge Joel Baker knows there is more than the usual pressure on him and the new commissioner's court.

"The biggest thing on everyone's mind, it's been going on for quite a while now, is the jail. We've got to get the jail built. It's that simple," says Baker.

For the last 18 months, the question of what and where to build the jail has plagued the outgoing court. When they decided to put two proposals on the May ballot both were defeated.

"I just think there were some people who felt there were some contradictions in placing two potential jail locations on the ballot. I think that was a mistake. I just think it's quite obvious that the public understands that the jail needs to be downtown, close the court facilities," says Baker.

Judge Baker says he thinks the way to get a jail bond passed is to make one decision about where and what to build, then let voters give it an up or down vote. Newly sworn in Commissioner Bill McGinnis isn't sure that will work either.

"I have maybe a few questions about whether a bond issue for a jail will pass in this county. I could be wrong. We'll see. I could be right.  I could be wrong, but I intend to do everything I can to help make it happen," says McGinnis.

The court will face other decisions this year.

"We have transportation needs. We have to address our roads and county roads are in horrible shape. We've made great progress but it costs money and frankly, this budget year, we don't have any extra money," says Baker.

The true test of their success will probably be largely based on whether they are able to get a jail built in Smith County once and for all.

In his first official act, Judge Baker declared tomorrow a day of mourning in Smith County. All county government offices will be closed.

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting:


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