Smith County Jail Plan, School Bond Set Out Before Voters

They're pushing to get the new Smith County Jail plan on the November ballot and Wednesday, county judge Joel Baker pitched the plan to law enforcement and to the entire commissioner's court for the very first time.

Voters like you were also encouraged to ask questions Wednesday. KLTV 7's Courtney Lane was there, and has reaction.

Showcasing the design of their "no frills" jail, committee members say they're hopeful commissioners and voters will approve the plan, which is half the price of the previous bond that failed miserably last year.

"That price tag and the location the building was too fancy, and so the people just want a bare-bones jail proposal that gets us through what we need for right now," said Commissioner JoAnn Fleming.

With a price tag of $60 million, the jail bond includes basic facilities built on land the county already owns.

That location is next to the current downtown jail, and would cut out the high cost of transporting inmates.

But, also on the running for the November ballot is a nearly $125 million dollar Tyler school bond. That would include 6 new campuses in 2010.

So, we wanted to know, can voters afford to pass both bonds?

Judge Joel Baker is optimistic.

"I have kids in public schools here in Tyler as well. I think it's one of those situation where we have competing interests, unfortunately, because they're equally compelling interests. So I'm very hopeful people will get behind both."

"I think the school bond issue's going to have a much more difficult time than the jail," said Ashton Orabetz, a Smith County voter.

After hearing plans for the so called "bare bones" jail, voters here voiced their support, thanking leaders for re-thinking the plan.

"People really like to see opposing sides come together and actually produce something that's workable," said Commissioner Fleming.

Commissioners are set to make a final decision on the jail plan as early the end of next week.

Renovations to the Smith County courthouse are not included in this jail plan, but Commissioner Fleming says they do plan on fixing it up for future use. She says they will renovate on a pay-as-you-go basis from a separate fund.

Courtney Lane, reporting.