Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shock, Outrage at Town Hall Meeting On New Jail

Shock, Outrage at Town Hall Meeting On New Jail

Taxpayers expressed anger and fear over having to finance a
new jail at a Town Hall meeting in Meridian.

Jail construction committee members and the County Judge and
Sheriff explained to about 70 concerned citizens that the
task is unavoidable.

The architect showed them a power point presentation to
explain the devastating effects of the state's commission on
jail standards closing the present jail and forcing the
Commissioners' Court to ship prisoners to neighboring
counties where jails come up to standards. This forces a
$9.75 million project in the best case scenario. Estimates
of anywhere from $.75 million to $l.5 million if there is
a delay for a bond election and an additional year of
waiting for construction to begin.

Southwest Architects' Jeffrey E. Heffelfinger explained that
if everything is done on schedule, the tax burden would be
about $.037 cents per $100 assessed valuation, plus $.06 - a
total of $.103 cents - for debt service on certificates of
obligation issued by the Commissioners' Court, something
that would cost the average taxpayer anywhere from $60 to
$100 on a typical Bosque County home.

One concerned taxpayer said he can't understand how come a
solution similar to the one used in Maricopa County, Arizona,
by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, that of housing prisoners in
tents under the baking Phoenix sun and making them work hard
in striped suits.

"Why do we have to build a hotel for these people?"

Sheriff Anthony Mallot responded very quickly.

"Arizona doesn't have a jail standards commission, okay?
Sheriff Joe's best friend is that federal judge...And one
thing they don't tell you about Sheriff Joe is he done paid
out better than $30 million in lawsuits over the way he
treats those prisoners."

And then racism reared its ugly head.

"And I was just wondering how come there are so many people
throwed in jail every week," the interlocutor said. "Looks
to me like in the paper every week most of them is Mexicans.
Most of them's illegal. If they're illegal, don't throw
them in jail. Take them back to Mexico."

Said Sheriff Mallot, "To be honest with you, we don't deal
with that many illegals. We have a few just every now and

"I noticed every time I get the paper, that's what half of
it is," the man persisted.

But the Sheriff and the County Judge countered his argument,
saying that of the few illegal aliens arrested, those few
are turned over to immigration officials.

The sheriff conceded that overall population of Bosque
County has increased very little since the sixties.

However, according to Judge Cole Word, the population
appears to as much as double on weekends with sportsmen
and recreational visitors to Lake Whitney.

"Then we wake up on Monday morning and every'body's gone and
our jail's full," he said. "It's hard to gauge our

Actually, the proposed jail is hardly a hotel. Walls and
floors will be made of heavily reinforced concrete. The
overhead will be steel. All prisoners will be under 24 hour
video and audio surveillance from the time they are booked
until they are released or transferred. One wonders about
claims that if the air conditioning stops, the temperatures
inside the facility will not vary more than a couple of
degrees over a two-day period. Wouldn't the air get very
stale and stagnant in just a short? It's not a bad reason
to try to stay out of jail. Also, television sets will be
inside steel boxes with Lexan covers so one cannot harm the
set or adjust its volume or programming.

Another man said he fears that people will lose their jobs
because of the increased tax expense of building the jail.

A fellow citizen responded from the audience, saying that
from his calculations, his increased tax expense at his
Meridian place of business will be just $60 per year, hardly
a reason to lay off or fire staff.

The debate and discussion will continue until April 13 when
the Commissioners' Court will reconvene to possibly take
action on the matter, voting for one of two proposed
facilities - either a 64-bed jail fully expandable to 96
beds, or a 96 bed jail - both to be financed on either a 20
or 25 year term.

Finally, two members of the citizen committee stood up to
defend their year-long project of finding the best solution
to a problem that is not likely to go away unless they take

Said George Hallmark, "We can throw our money down a rat
hole, or we can spend it in our own county."

Dr. Tom Bratcher, Bosque County Republican Chairman Elect,
said "The question is how do you want those taxes to be

Meanwhile, there will be several more Town Hall meetings
throughout the county for presentations and questions by

Town Hall meetings will be held on:

* Tuesday March 30 at the Westshore Community Center

* Thursday April 1 at the Old City Hall in Valley Mills

* Tuesday April 6 at the Walnut Springs Community Center

* Thursday April 8 at Bettis Auditorium, Clifton Elementary

All meeting times are at 6:30 p.m.

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