The Commissioner's Court today adopted a Statement of Purpose and Commitment for Long-Range Facililty Plan regarding future plans to build a new Smith County Jail. The full text of the statement is below. It was signed by Judge Joel Baker, JoAnn Fleming, Bobby VanNess, William McGuiness, and JoAnn Hampton.
Smith County Long-range Facility Plan: Phase I
Statement of Purpose and Commitment
Smith County Commissioners Court
Monday, June 2, 2008
The Smith County Commissioners Court pledges to the citizens of Smith County that we will
aggressively and purposeflully work toward practical, effective, and cost-efficient solutions to
long-standing county facility problems.
The truth is - Smith County facilities have not been maintained with a sense of pride and
commonsense management for a very long time, but we are determined to make lasting, visible
changes in order that our employees and taxpayers notice the difference and come to believe in
The challenges are many, and our task list long; however, it is important to note recent
improvements in county facilities and build upon this progress:
systems and made mechanical, lighting, and water conservation improvements to the
Courthouse, Courthouse Annex, and Cotton Belt Building. Smith County received a
commendation from the Texas State Comptroller's Office for these improvements.
modern integrated communication and voice mail system.
Central and Low Risk Jails.
Justice of the Peace and Constable offices in Precinct 5 completed; expansion/remodel of
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace and Constable Office completed; expansion/remodel of
Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace and Constable Office in progress and nearing completion.
upgrades; Courthouse 3~ floor renovations provided additional space for District
donations by RPR Construction in memory of the late Commissioner Don Pinkerton.
Improvement Fund in order to build a cash reserve for major building repairs and
improvements. Dedication of funds to this "pay as we go" account continues and will
play an important role in financing facility improvements in Phase I.
Long-range County Facility Planning
Continuous, comprehensive, long-range county facility planning has never been done before in
Smith County. Previous officials, task forces, and committees had noble goals and good
intentions. Their work yielded important information, but crucial parts of the overall facility
puzzle were omitted and many proposals were never implemented.
During the last months of workshops, the Commissioners Court has attempted to take a wide, but
detailed view of all facility deficiencies. Our workshops will continue as we work to document
the scope of each problem and refer back to past taxpayer-funded studies and consultant reports
in our decision-making process.
We affirm that our first allegiance is to the taxpayers. We commit to develop plans that
are reasonable, conservative, and affordable. For every facility deficiency, our number one
goal is to find a quality solution that represents the best value for each tax dollar spent. 3~
will maximize existing space in county buildin~s stretch current funds to cover as many
remodel projects as possible. and will use inmate labor as much as possible to reduce the
cost of each project.
While we recognize that fellow elected county officials naturally have their own ideas about
priorities, it is the statutory responsibility of the Commissioners Court to provide and maintain
facilities for the proper conduct of county business. We must take into consideration both the
short and long-term countywide operational and budgetary impact and how our decisions affect
each cog in the wheel of county government - the People's business.
Although we have not yet worked out every detail, the Commissioners Court believes it is time
to clearly identify to our citizens, employees, and other county officials what we consider to be
the highest facility priorities and to make it very clear that the ~iy new construction project
under consideration by this Court is for a jail expansion. As we move forward with planning,
necessary details will be added.
Smith County Facility Plan: Phase I
New construction: jail expansion only with remodel of central & low risk jail; video visitation
to be installed at low risk facility. Funding: pending voter approval, Nov. 2008 bond election;
Relocate Sheriff's Office from Smith County Office Building to 5th floor SC Annex Building;
some divisions relocate to the adjacent county-owned Murphey and Roosth buildings on Spring
Street. This is more cost-efficient than new construction. Funding: existing funds from facility
improvement/permanent improvement funds;
Relocate Adult Probation, Warrants, Pre-Trial, and Fire Marshal departments from the Smith
County Office Building to "East of the Annex" properties in county rehabilitated buildings rather
than new construction. [Note: Status of "East of the Annex" properties - feasibility study
ongoing; plan for a vacated Smith County Office Building (old Carlton Hotel) to be presented
with jail plan details.]
Relocate the successful Alternatives to Incarceration program from the Courthouse to the East
Option facilities to free up space in the Courthouse and to enhance functionality and productivity
with Adult Probation.
Complete the current remodel of the Courthouse basement, which yields: more space and
technology enhancements for the grand jury; a remodeled and relocated law library to serve the
public (pro se litigants and attorneys, etc.); an expanded auxiliary courtroom that will seat 50 to
60 in the gallery; and an additional auxiliary courtroom with seating for 80 to 90. These
courtrooms will house future courts (when approved by the state legislature). Upon completion,
these courtrooms will currently serve as space for Attorney General dockets, arraignments, and
meetings, and allow for routine cases to be heard when courts are involved in complex and
lengthy trials. Additional space will be available for a new public break room; county staff will
conduct a future feasibility study for a food service vendor for juror/citizen convenience and
cost-efficiency. Funding: permanent improvement/facility improvement funds.
Remodel of 5th and 6th floors of the Smith County Courthouse currently used to house inmates
and for storage. This will provide additional needed space for the district attorney and district
clerk. Funding: to be determined, pending estimates and retirement of debt.
Limited remodel of other Courthouse floors to provide additional space for existing courts and
inmate holding cells; attorney-client conference areas; additional seating for witnesses and other
participants; and security upgrades to the Courthouse in general. Space for an additional court
on the third floor (for a total of three additional courtrooms) is planned. Funding: to be
determined, pending estimates and retirement of debt.
Based on the CGL facilities master plan report (with data provided by our justice officials), the
Smith County District Court system will require an additional 2.5 new district judges by 2027
and an additional .8 or one county court at law judge by 2027. [Source: CGL final report,
page 3-30] While the Commissioners Court acknowledges the need to commence a petition to
the Texas State Legislature for an additional district court by 2012 [Source: CGL fmal report,
page 3-29, table 3-28], the additional courthouse space (freed up by various county offices
moving to the Annex Building, by recent clean-up efforts, and by our remodeling plans) will be
sufficient to house that district court and two other auxiliary courts. The Commissioners Court
believes that it is the best use of tax dollars to maximize the space we already have. Remodeling
the Courthouse is far more affordable to our taxpayers than constructing a new courts building at
this time; therefore, we determine that a new courts building will not be a part of Phase I.
Parking: Additional parking for jurors, the general public, and employees is planned and is also
part of the "East of the Annex" properties feasibility study. In upcoming facility workshops, the
Commissioners Court will conduct a thorough review of the current number of parking slots
versus the parking needs as outlined in the CGL final report.
Statement of Purpose and Commitment Summary
Our goal for Phase I of the County Facility Plan is to deliver clean, well-maintained, inviting,
fully-utilized county buildings; more convenient parking for jurors, employees, and customers;
rehabilitated buildings for support offices, placing a premium on functionality, efficiency, and
preservation of key historic value; and, with voter approval, additional jail space that works in
conjunction with the existing central jail and low risk facility.
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