Topic of Jail Expansion is Postponed Until March


Washington County Justices of the Peace are postponing a discussion about expanding the overcrowded detention center. The JP’s say they need more information before backing a proposed sales tax funding plan that would pay for the construction.

The committee decided to table the proposal of the sales tax plan until the March committee meeting. 

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office came Monday night, February 11, with a detailed report to show the detention center’s increase of booked inmates.

Right now the jail is at capacity — with several inmates sleeping on the floor. This has become a challenge for the sheriff’s office to cover the cost.  

The proposal consists of a $38 million jail expansion plus an $11 million communications system.

The bond issue calls for a .5 percent sales tax increase to pay for the construction of a new jail.

A separate .5 percent sales tax would be added to install the communications system.

When both of these projects are completed a .25 percent sales tax would remain in order to maintain the cost of the jail.

It’s a decision the court’s committee is not ready to bring to the quorum court and the voters of Washington County. 

“It seems to me this came out recently,” Washington County resident Elizabeth Coger said. “We need to step back and review all the options besides just expand the jail and that’s what I said tonight in front of the Quorum court — just some options before we just jump in.”

“I’ve been frustrated because this discussion has been going on publicly for over four years,” Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said. “It’s been an ongoing crisis and now it’s a big problem because Springdale is closing their jail. We are releasing nonviolent offenders at a rate of over 200 a month.” 

Within the next month, the JP’s said they will continue to tour the jail, meet with the full Quorum Court, and they hope to have a public forum with homeowners in Washington County.

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