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Coryell County voters to decide fate of proposed jail during May 1 election

County officials say it's needed, but residents divided
Posted at 10:50 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 00:09:01-04

CORYELL COUNTY, TX — Voters in Coryell County are divided on the proposal for a new, 250-bed jail.

“Appraisals have skyrocketed. Gatesville ISD already has a ten cent rate hike coming this year. We just can’t handle another one,” said Coryell County resident Steve Buckner.

Some say the $30.9 million bond is too much for taxpayers. However, officials say the current jail is overcrowded, and the county is losing money housing inmates in other counties.

“It is only by the grace, I want to capitalize that, we’re graced by the Texas Commission of Jail Standards that we are not shut down before now,” said Coryell County resident Donna Taylor.

Coryell County Sheriff Scott Williams says their 92-bed facility has to be at or under 80% capacity to be in compliance with the state. Since he’s been in office, he says that’s been a constant issue.

“We have been taken out of compliance due to overcrowding. Sometimes, a lot of the times, beds are not there,” said Sheriff Williams.

As of today, Sheriff Williams says they have 89 inmates at the jail and 104 inmates in six different counties.

That’s costing the county up to $1.3 million a year, not including transportation. Sheriff Williams also says there’s no guarantee if the others jails will continue to take his inmates or have enough bed space and staffing.

“They are ready to help when they can, but if they don’t have the staff, they’re not going to fall out of compliance to help me,” he said.

Former jail employee Michael Leyva says transporting inmates to and from the jail takes a toll.

“We would have to call people in on their off days to either transport to other counties or go pick up people from other counties. It was more of a hassle because we didn’t have the people that we needed for that court day,” said Leyva.

The former employee says residents should pay for the new jail now, because it will cost more to pay later. However, some like Joe Campbell say they support law enforcement, but there’s still too many unanswered questions.

“We have no proof that we studied our current jail. Can it be altered or added on to? I think our commissioners have done a good job of designing this jail, but I don’t think we’re ready to buy this thing,” he said.

Sheriff Williams says if the new jail isn’t approved, it will take a three-year standstill until officials could start plans for another new jail.

Coryell County voters will cast their ballots on Saturday, May 1.