Tag Archives: Rockwall County Commissioners

Discussions underway to expand near-capacity Rockwall County jail

Preliminary discussions are currently underway in Rockwall County to expand the near-capacity jail for the third time in 11 years, to keep up with demand as well as to compete for lucrative federal contracts which would help pay for the expansion.

The next expansion could be the largest ever, possibly doubling capacity to more than 500 beds.

County commissioners have recently heard presentations from two firms hoping to win the expansion contract. Both estimates propose adding 288 beds, ranging from $18 million to $27.3 million.

The jail was built in the late 1980s. Additions in 1997 and 2000 increased the size to 241 beds, but those filled quickly.

A 2006 report by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards instructed Rockwall County to either add more beds to meet demand or face the additional expense to lease beds and transport inmates elsewhere.

County Judge Chris Florance said that in a two-month period last year, Rockwall spent $30,000 exporting inmates.

“We’re in a position now where if we don’t start thinking about this issue, we’re going to have to start shipping our prisoners out – a lot more than we did last time – and it’ll cost the county a lot of money.”

Rockwall Co. Sheriff Harold Eavenson said earlier expansions created temporary excess capacity, which allowed the county to lease some beds to federal agencies and neighboring counties.

“From 2002 to 2006, when we had extra space, we made about $1.1 million for the county contracting out bed space.”

The sheriff said he hoped the county could reopen that revenue stream with the next expansion. He said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials scouted the jail this month and that the U.S. Marshals service is interested for temporarily housing detainees.

County Commissioners Lorie Grinnan and David Magness said they are intrigued with the idea of generating dollars from the outside to help pay for the facility’s costs but want to hold discussions with County residents before moving forward.

Judge Florance said he would likely schedule additional discussions this Fall.

Rockwall County’s tax rate likely to increase slightly

Rockwall County’s tax rate is likely to increase very slightly this year to begin making debt payments for the new $11.5 million library, which voters approved in 2004.

Last year county commissioners cut the tax rate from 35.07 to 35 cents per $100 valuation, but this year the County must also begin paying off debt on the planned $30 million justice center, though that will have less impact for now on the tax rate.

Although the county expects to receive $1.6 to $1.9 million in new tax revenue in 2009, commissioners must still pay for rising costs and salaries – especially for library operations. The bonds don’t pay for library salaries and other expenses, and those could add $1 million to the $21 million general budget.

County Judge Chris Florance is scheduled to propose the first budget draft July 31. Then commissioners will make revisions, hold two public hearings and vote for the final budget on Sept. 9.

Commissioners trick voters, approve courts building anyway

In a stunning announcement yesterday, Rockwall County’s commissioners used some trickery and voted 3 to 2 to approve the building of a new $30 million courts building on a site where voters have twice rejected it over the past few years!
I’m infuriated! How dare these lawmakers!
Quoting from the story in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News:


Rockwall County commissioners this week voted to build a $30 million courts building on the site where voters twice rejected a $29 million government center.
Commissioners in a 3-2 vote decided to issue limited tax notes, which don’t require voter approval, to plan and build the 117,000-square-foot building on county-owned land at T.L. Townsend Drive and Interstate 30.
Who voted how:
Commissioners Bruce Beaty, who will leave office Jan. 1, and Jerry Wimpee voted with Mr. Florance. Ms. Grinnan and Commissioner David Magness voted no.
What was their justification for ignoring voters, to issue “limited tax notes” which don’t require voter approval?
County Judge Chris Florance said officials could wait no longer because they need the space and construction costs are rising 9 percent a year.
“We felt like we needed to make some hard decisions, so we did,” he said. “We’re going to save the taxpayers millions and millions by getting a building out of the ground now.”
Quite coincidentally, on the same day that California’s Supreme Court voted 4 to 3 to overrule California voters and legalize gay marriage in that state, both that Supreme Court and our County Commissioners decided to take the law into their own hands.
Apparently they think they know better! Time to show them differently!