By Darrell Todd Maurina
Builders broke ground last week on the new Parmer County jail.
County Sheriff Randy Geries said replacing the existing 18-bed jail is critical.
“We are constantly fighting capacity issues,” Geries said. “In our current little bitty jail we run out of room real quick.”
Parmer County’s problems aren’t limited to the number of inmates.
“There are issues in jail where you have to classify and segregate inmates,” said Geries. “We have to keep males away from females, separate minimum, medium and violent offenders, those with communicable diseases, and other things.”
According to budget figures provided by Parmer County Judge Bonnie Clayton-Heald, the estimated total cost will be $3.157 million. Construction expenses are expected to be $2.745 million; the higher number includes a $192,155 construction management fee and some additional non-construction expenses.
Even though the current jail was built in 1973, it used parts from an earlier jail built behind the old courthouse in 1916. The jail currently holds a number of waivers from the Texas Department of Corrections allowing it to continue operations, but failure to meet required standards raises legal liability concerns.
“We are plagued with plumbing problems and other nuisances such as old equipment,” Geries said. “Even though it was built in the 1970s, there are old locking mechanisms and gates.”
Other parts of the new facility will include administrative offices, deputy offices, and areas for storage of records.
Although the major portion of the cost will come from certificates of obligation, a special bond issued by the Commissioners Court without a citizen vote, Geries said Parmer County hopes to pay for the cost of the jail in part by taking fees to house inmates from other counties that are also over capacity.
“That’s going to be an extra source of funding that we hope will help us out, but we are not going to count on it because it is a variable cost issue,” Geries said.