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Jail Standards Commission clears Hays County facility

Friday, February 5, 2010 by John Davidson

Hays County is in the clear, at least for now, as far as the Texas Commission on Jail Standards is concerned.


On Thursday, after Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley gave a full update on the progress of renovations at the jail, the commission rescinded its remedial order from November and commended Hays County officials for their work.


“It’s obvious that they’ve done, or are attempting to get done, everything we’ve asked of them, particularly with the kitchen situation,” said Adan Munoz, executive director of the commission.


The county failed health and safety inspections in April and September last year, prompting the commission to order the closure of the kitchen in November—a decision Hays County Commissioners appealed in order to buy time to make repairs they claim were already in the works.


Conley told the commission on Thursday that the county sheriff’s office closed the jail’s kitchen this week and a mobile kitchen is now fully operational. A major renovation of the kitchen should be completed by the end of April.


Before then, around the end of March, the county should be finished installing a new roof on the jail. Work began on the roof in December and is currently about 70 percent complete, according to Conley.


So far, Hays County has spent nearly $2 million dollars on renovations and repairs to the 21-year-old jail facility, and could spend nearly $3 million before work is completed. Some of those costs have come from moving inmates around to other facilities while the roof renovations have been underway. Currently, 64 Hays County inmates are being housed in Guadalupe County under a contract with Hays.


Despite all the work on the kitchen and roof, current renovations are something of a stopgap measure, according to Hays County Judge Liz Sumter, with the ultimate question being whether the county will build a new jail.


“We’re in the process of assessing that,” said Sumter. “Being 21 years old and the cost that it took just to get it up to compliance and the continuing maintenance costs will certainly warrant looking at a new jail.”


Such a project would cost about $50 to $60 million—at a time when other massive projects, like the $72 million Hays County Government Center, are just getting underway.


As for the county’s standing with the state jail commission, all is well for now. According to Munoz, the commission will wait until they receive a request from the Hays County Sheriff’s office for an official inspection this spring. The commissioners appeared pleased by the county’s progress, but Munoz did ask a few questions about logistics and conditions at the jail.


“The reason I keep bringing this up in public meetings is to reemphasize to the folks in the crowd and other agencies, this is what happens when you wait a little too long,” Munoz said. “However, Hays County has now stepped up tremendously… looking out for the welfare and treatment of the inmates and the people that work there.”

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