Tyler Commissioner's Court Adopts Statement Of Purpose For New Jail - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

06/02/08 - Tyler

Tyler Commissioner's Court Adopts Statement Of Purpose For New Jail

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.

ckhalil@kltv.com

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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

our commitment.

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:

  • In the last three years, Smith County replaced aging and energy inefficient HVAC

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.

  • Telephone systems replaced countywide to reduce the number of lines and to install a

modern integrated communication and voice mail system.

  • Roof replacements: Courthouse, Cotton Belt Building, Public Health District Clinic,

Central and Low Risk Jails.

  • Central Jail renovations - laundry, kitchen, intercom system.
  • Justice of the Peace and Constable Offices: purchase, renovation, and relocation of the

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.

  • The 321st District Court received significant space expansion, renovation, and security

upgrades; Courthouse 3~ floor renovations provided additional space for District

Attorney.

  • Road & Bridge Department Facility renovations and expansion ofbulk fuel station.
  • Annex Building Lower Level employee and public rest area in conjunction with

donations by RPR Construction in memory of the late Commissioner Don Pinkerton.

  • In 2006, the Commissioners Court voted to dedicate one cent of the tax rate to a Facility

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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