Smith County Residents Speak Out For And Against Jail Proposal - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/01/07-Smith County

Smith County Residents Speak Out For And Against Jail Proposal

In about a month, taxpayers in Smith County will be asked whether or not they will help pay for a new $125 million dollar jail.  Commissioners held a town hall meeting Monday asking for the public's feedback.  As the bond election date approaches, more and more residents are speaking out.

Bobby Curtis of Tyler knows bond elections all too well.  Back in 2002 and 2004, Curtis helped put together the Tyler ISD School Bond Proposal.  Both that passed and failed.

"This is just about a mere image of what happened in TISD," said Curtis.  "In fact, it's probably a little worse." 

The proposal includes the jail, new county office buildings and a three story parking garage.  It's a number Curtis said is way too high, and he believes taxpayers won't pay for it.  That's why he has formed "Citizens For The Right Jail Plan."

"I don't know where it got off track, but it's definitely off track," said Curtis.  "They had an $83 million bond that failed in 2006.  They started all over, and instead of tweaking that and making it work, they started all over and increased it from $90 million to $125 million, and they still don't know everything that is included." 

Bobby Mims from the Build The Jail committee thinks differently.

"Nobody wants to spend $125 million dollars for a new jail," said Mims.  "I don't want to spend it, but it's necessary for our community.  It's something that if we don't build today, it's going to cost more and more in the future.  It's not getting any cheaper.  It's a matter of public safety."

One thing both sides agree on: Smith County needs a jail.

The Build The Jail committee has challenged the opposition group to a series of debates.  Bobby Curtis told KLTV 7 he would debate the chairman, but does not see what it would accomplish.

Smith County commissioners will be holding another Town Hall Meeting Tuesday night in Whitehouse at 6 p.m. in the city council chambers.

Molly Reuter, Reporting.


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