Athens Review, Athens, Texas

April 10, 2013

Jail expansion payment approved

2013 amount totals almost $1.2 million

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — The Henderson County Commissioners Court approved the annual bond payment on the jail expansion  Tuesday, bringing the county closer to retiring the debt on the project.

The 2013 payment on the $8 million bond is $1,198,711.50. The final payment on the project is due in May, 2016.

Precinct 2 County Commissioner Wade McKinney said he was pleased that the county has been able to offset a significant portion of the cost of the jail with the out-of-county prisoners who have been housed there since opening the new portion of the jail added more than 300 beds.

“We’re approaching $3 million on out-of-county inmates,” McKinney said. “That’s a significant portion of the bond amount. Of course, there were added expenses, too, like feeding the extra prisoners and ramping up the staff.”

Before 2008, Henderson County, with an undersized facility, was paying to have some of its inmates boarded elsewhere. When the expansion opened, the county was able to take advantage of a small window of opportunity to house prisoners for other counties before jail projects in other counties became complete.

That paid off in the amount of $737,892 in 2009, $746,917.63 in 2010 and $765,225 in 2011. Then, the steady stream of out-of-county prisoners began to dry up.

According to Henderson County Sheriff’s Office records, after housing 64 out-of-county inmates in November 2011, the jail began 2012 with 29 out-of-county inmates. But, as of June, that number had decreased to one.

The Sheriff’s Office has seen a rebound in the number of out-of-county inmates in 2013.

From a total of 17 last November, the number has increased to 34 in December, 41 in January, 75 in February and 53 in March.

Most of those are from Smith County, which has its own jail expansion project in the works. In March, Smith County had a total of 86 inmates being housed in other counties.

The Henderson County Jail expansion project first came under consideration in the late 1990s. Voters overwhelmingly passed a bond election in November  2005, approving the expansion plan that increased the capacity from about 200 prisoners to more than 500.

The county also put up $4 million from its reserve funds to allow it to do additional improvements to the existing portion of the jail.