I would like to applaud County Judge Guthrie for his latest decision to build a new jail in Blanco County. Over the past years there have not been too many subjects that he and I agreed on but this county has needed a new jail facility for a very long time.
Having noted the above, I would also like to inform my county-wide neighbors that in approximately 1995 the late and great Judge George Byars purchased the land located on Hwy 281 in Johnson City for, in fact, the sole purpose of building a new jail facility (This is where the current sheriff office substation resides). Just recently, the current county judge (Guthrie) has purchased two parcels of land: (1) The block across the street from the courthouse in Johnson City at $750,000 (for a new annex building); and (2) the old Weirich concrete property next door to the substation (the original land purchased for a new jail) for $250,000 to build the new jail facility on. I might add that this property was purchased very quietly much like the other property that was purchased across from the courthouse… and without any environmental inspections done whatsoever. Folks, this is an unnecessary and irresponsible $1,000,000 taxpayer dollars that this judge has spent in the last few years!
Neighbors, the land that was bought in 1995, which currently houses the SO substation, with proper planning, is enough property to not only build a new jail but also build a new courthouse annex complex. There was absolutely no need for Guthrie to spend $1,000,000 taxpayer dollars on all of the land that he has purchased lately. These purchases were done hastily, with no planning, nor any consideration of other available assets or options.
In 1995, the previous sheriff had been saying for years that the county needed a new jail and that the current jail was not up to standard. He recognized the associated liabilities and unsafe conditions with the old jail building and worked diligently for commissioner’s court to approve a new jail to be built back then. At that time, the estimated costs to build a new jail would have been about a million dollars and it was said that the county had the funds (in CD’s) to pay for a large portion of the project. Now... the million has been spent on land that was not needed. Thus, more taxpayer dollars have been spent senselessly!
All disagreements aside, I must say “yes” we do need a new county jail but it has taken way too long. Albeit, the current jail is a real neat historic place, it has not met the American Disabilities Act or basic jail requirements for years! If an inmate is sick, the conditions are horrible and infectious to all inside. It is impossible to separate inmates in a healthy and clean environment and there is no proper heating or ventilation present. General human decency calls for better conditions for people than this!
I have a few questions for the judge to clarify: 1. Why not plan for even further down the road with a better than “minimum standard” jail? Any community planner knows better than to only plan for the minimum. 2. Are you seeking other funding options such as, but not limited to, federal/state building funds or grants? 3. Are you planning to include taxpayers in planning, perhaps with an open forum format?
In the article, the judge assures us that he will get the best price available from hurting contractors in the area. I think that this is a great idea. Let’s put our local men and women to work and help our community thrive, not outside contractors. The judge also implied in the article that this jail will be a thing of beauty and will be inconspicuous to the Blanco County landscape. I certainly hope so, as taxpayers expect nothing less for their hard earned and hard paid dollars. It is imperative that the project should be planned efficiently and for far into the future and with community input!
While I agree that we need a new jail and annex in Blanco county, I also believe that past unplanned and hasty actions, arrogance, and ignorance has cost Blanco County taxpayers far too much already. We need a new jail bet we need a new county judge to lead our counties residents into the future with projects such as these. Pay close attention to this folks! In this day, trust worthiness and leadership abilities in a person is a must!
Johnson City, TX