Important date approaches for Nolan County projects

The Nolan County Commissioner’s Court will meet on Monday morning, June 25, at 9 a.m. and will be voting to award certificates of obligation to fund the courthouse repairs and construction of the new Nolan County Sheriff’s Office and Jail, provided that there is not a valid petition submitted that will force the issues to a November bond election.While the need for a new jail goes back over 12 years, the County Commissioner’s Court began diligently evaluating the issue in April of 2011 as the situation of de-certification and potential closure of the current jail, by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, loomed on the immediate horizon. On April 18, 2011, a comprehensive meeting, posted and open to the public, was held as a workshop for the Sheriff and other county and city officials to discuss and fully understand the need for the new jail and sheriff’s offices and learn the results of a facility needs analysis that had just been completed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards or TCJS.Since that point, there have been at least 20 meetings of the Nolan County Commissioner’s Court where something to do with the new jail and sheriff’s offices has been on the agenda to be discussed and/or voted on. Every one of these meetings has been posted and open to the public to attend and offer input. These meetings included the five large public meetings held throughout the county back in November and December of 2011 that were attended by citizens and voters very interested in the issue of a new jail as well as the needed courthouse repairs.“As a result of those meetings held in Roscoe, Maryneal, Nolan, Blackwell and Sweetwater, the Nolan County Commissioners decided to move forward on these two necessary issues with the probable method of issuing certificates of obligation as the mechanism for financing the projects. The County Commissioners only decided to do this after receiving a large amount of positive input from citizens (tax payers and voters) that indicated their approval in getting these two projects moving toward completion as soon as possible,” said Nolan County Sheriff David Warren. “I can assure you that the County Commissioners would not have moved along the path of certificates of obligation except that many citizens of this county indicated their support of and desire to see these projects handled in a manner that would save the tax payers as much money as possible and get them underway soon,” said Sheriff Warren. “The exterior of our courthouse must be repaired and a new jail must be built. These are indisputable facts,” Warren commented. “Having a bond election will cause the tax payers to incur not only the cost of the election but even worse, it will cause a huge delay in the progress of both projects that could affect the final cost in a very detrimental way and possibly trigger the TCJS to go ahead and close the current jail in the courthouse,” explained Warren.“If the current jail is shut down, and we are forced to house all prisoners out in other counties, the cost could easily reach a million dollars annually for contract housing and transportation costs. This would create a disaster with the county’s general operating budget as the cost for housing all prisoners in other counties, and the enormous cost of continual transports, would come out of the M&O (Maintenance and Operating) portion of the county’s budget as opposed to the new facility costs that would be paid for through the certificates of obligation mechanism out of the I&S (Interest and Sinking) portion of the budget,” said the Sheriff.Warren went on to explain, “Nolan County currently has no indebtedness in the I&S portion of the budget and hasn’t had for over 20 years. Interest rates are likely the lowest we will ever see them and construction costs are as flat as they can possibly be right now. We realize that this is a lot of money, but this is absolutely the best time to get both of these done. Most people pay as much in state and city sales tax on their personal cellular telephone bill each month as what both of these projects will cost together in new county taxes. If a petition is received on June 25, with enough validated signatures to force a bond election, then progress on both projects will stop immediately until a bond election can be conducted. This would delay the courthouse exterior project as well as the jail. If there is no forced bond election, then courthouse repairs could begin next month in July and likely reach completion by January of next year. The new sheriff’s office and jail construction could start around the first of November of this year and possibly be completed around the end of 2013. It is very unfortunate that the courthouse exterior problem occurred, but I think everyone will agree that we can’t leave it bare like it is now. We are looking at about $14 million to do both projects with roughly $10.5 million for the new jail facility and $3.5 million for the courthouse repairs, including what has been spent already on getting the granite taken down.”“I hope the citizens and voters will educate themselves regarding this and many already have. We have tried to put out as much information as possible and I really think that everyone knows these projects must be completed. I really don’t want to see tax payers have to pay even more due to the cost of a bond election and higher costs from the delay of the projects, but if enough people cause that to happen then we will just deal with it,” said Warren.“Our Commissioner’s Court meets on the second and fourth Mondays of every month and we always invite the public to come and involve yourself in your county government. I will gladly show you the current jail and explain the many deficiencies and I would hope if anyone has questions that they will call one of us (County Commissioners or the Sheriff) for additional information. All of us know this is a big decision and commitment and feel that we have certainly given it the serious consideration it deserves,” said Warren.Both the County Commissioners and the Sheriff indicated that they are interested in answering any questions or concerns. Any of the County Commissioners can be contacted at 325-235-3355. Sheriff Warren’s office can be reached at 325-235-5471.