Friday, March 5, 2010

No Vacancy

Not quite there yet but soon.  Business, unfortunately, is booming.

But this article exemplifies what I like most about Comal County, its elected officials and its Commissioner's Court.  They
don't wait for events to catch them by surprise they plan ahead and are proactive.

Near capacity

It could be less than two years before the Comal County Jail can no longer hold all of the county’s criminals, Sheriff Bob Holder said Thursday.

Built in 1998, the county jail on West San Antonio Street currently has a total capacity of 337 prisoners.

It was expected to last 20 years, but the boom in the county’s population has officials bracing for an accompanied rise in the number of local offenders.

“We haven’t run out of space yet, but it’s fast approaching,” he said.

Comal County had an average of 236 inmates locked in jail each day in 2008. The average increased to 248 last year, and is expected to keep growing as more people move to the county. By 2030, the Texas Jail Commission predicts the local county jail to be home to some 800 prisoners, according to Jail Administrator John Bell.

“We need a larger facility,” Holder said. “We just don’t have the room and we have to start planning now for our future needs.”

To accommodate a possible jail expansion, Comal County Commissioners agreed Thursday to buy 2.2 acres of property from the City of New Braunfels on Water Lane and Interstate 35, adjacent to the current sheriff’s office.

County Judge Danny Scheel said the county has no specific plans for the site right now, but bought it in anticipation of a necessary expansion.

The county agreed to pay the city around $290,000 for the acreage, and both commissioners and the sheriff agreed that a new facility could be needed soon.

“We know we’re almost at capacity, and we need to be proactive and prepare for those needs,” said Precinct 3 County Commissioner Greg Parker.

There would be at least two possible options for using the newly acquired county property to expand the county’s jail facilities.

One option would have the county’s administrative staff and criminal investigations unit move into a new building on the 2.2 acres, and add more cells on the inside of the current jail. Holder estimated that if the entire staff was moved out of the jail, it could double the current capacity.

Holder said the other option would be to build a new, multi-story jail on the 2.2 acres.

“The question now is how do we move forward,” Holder said. “We know we need to need to move forward, but now we need to study the best way to do it.”