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Bell County considers issuing $138 million in new bonds to expand jail, other projects

Posted at 11:02 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-02 00:02:32-04

Bell County Judge David Blackburn says the situation is bad. The county jail is overflowing with inmates and has been for at least a couple of months.

“Over the next few weeks, we'll probably have seven or eight counties that we're under contract with so we can have places that we can place our inmates in because we simply don’t have room here in the county,” said Judge Blackburn.

The county judge says they have 1,070 inmates assigned to the jail, but 80 are already incarcerated in three other counties.

It’s a temporary solution costing a lot of money, as much as $2 million by September if nothing changes.

It’s why Bell County wants to issue up to $138 million in new bonds. Judge Blackburn says 80% to 90% of that would go to the jail expansion.

“Could be anywhere from 600 to 900 beds that would be added in capacity,” he explained.

If approved by county commissioners, this would be the first jail expansion since 2008 and one of the largest new bonds issued.

While some believe the new debt could be trouble for taxpayers, Judge Blackburn says they’re confident taxpayers won’t have to spend a dime on the projects

“All of the commissioners and myself, construction costs associated with the jail expansion would be done within the existing tax rate,” the county judge said.

Judge Blackburn says they’ll also create new administrative offices, add an archive section to the county museum and consider other projects. The court will vote on the new bonds in May.