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Hays County delays jail bond election

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by Andy Sevilla

Pressed for time and with numerous unresolved issues, Hays County Commissioners postponed calling a $188 million bond election for November that would have funded a new jail, a co-located 911 center, a law enforcement center and a training hub.

In a special meeting Monday, commissioners decided to delay a bond election, opting instead to push for a May 2015 initiative.

“I think this is too fast to put one (bond election) up for November,” Hays County Judge Bert Cobb said. “I think that we don’t have enough – I don’t have enough – information to talk about defining this carefully and putting it on the bond for November. I just don’t see how we would do that and do a fair job of educating the public on what our needs are and purpose is.”

Commissioners first discussed putting the matter up for a November vote at their Aug. 12 meeting, after the court deliberated the Public Safety Facilities Committee recommendation to fund a new jail through Certificates of Obligation, which is a form of debt available to local governments typically to cover emergency expenses.

Commissioners rejected the Certificates of Obligation idea and instead decided on putting jail construction before voters. Officials also decided to ask voters to approve debt for the remaining public safety facilities, as recommended by the committee.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley said he preferred a November ballot because historically voters turn out in higher numbers. However, he conceded that commissioners were not yet in a position to call for a bond election.

With all the unknowns, commissioners said they would take the next few months to dig into details, get answers and help educate the public on the need for a new jail and other public safety facilities.

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