POSTED: Monday, June 18, 2012 - 9:32pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 6:23pm
EL PASO, TX — El Paso County Commissioners approved the first phase of the jail annex expansion. It will make room for the jail's growing population.
Construction crews will arrive any day now. Taxpayers are paying the $2.5 million bill for the jail upgrade.
The jail annex, on Montana near Loop 375, is about 95 percent full on any given day.
Commissioners approved phase one of the expansion project, which includes remodeling the jail's clinic, cafeteria, laundry room and other support services.
"It's basically what's existing in order to accommodate the growth of the larger population and the funding that we used is the tail end of the 2007 bond issuance and so all of that money will finally be for the jail annex expansion and that will make way for the new funding," said County Judge Veronica Escobar.
The expansion has been in the works since 2007, when the previous sheriff and the previous commissioners court decided to spend the money.
Sheriff Richard Wiles said he has been working on it since he took office in 2009.
"We've been working on the plan and since the city incorporated that area into the city limits, we have to work to comply with city building codes and now we're finally ready to break ground on the administration renovation," said Sheriff Wiles.
Phase two will follow soon, adding 432 beds to the jail. It will cost another $44 million, which the commissioners approved last week without a public vote.
Construction of phase two will begin four to six months after the certificates of obligation are sold next month.
Sheriff Wiles said it will save money to shift inmates from the downtown jail to the annex because it's much more expensive to keep inmates downtown.
"That building is 30 years old and needs a lot of maintenance to it and the way it's constructed there's not an efficient use of personnel that work in our control centers in there," said Sheriff Wiles.
The jail annex could become a money maker in another way too by housing federal inmates and getting paid for it by the federal government. Last year, the county was paid $17.7 million to house federal inmates.
Construction crews are expected to finish phase one early next year.