$70 million bond on May ballot for new Wichita County Jail

WICHITA COUNTY, TX (KAUZ) - Wichita County Commissioners approve a $70 million bond election for a new Wichita County Jail and Sheriff's Office.

Commissioners voted unanimously Monday morning to place that measure on the ballot for May 6th, 2017.

"We're keeping our head just above the water right now," Sheriff David Duke said.

Sheriff Duke said the wings of the county's two jail facilities were built in three different decades; 1965, 1985, and 1995.

In June of 2015, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards listed a number of items in need of repair to get the jail up to state standards.

Since then, it has been one repair after another. Sheriff Duke compared the county's facilities to the Titanic.

"Our jail has hit the iceberg and we're just trying to patch that hole as fast as we can and the water is still coming on. Eventually, it's going to get to the point where it's not going to pass the jail inspection and we'll have to close and have to ship inmates out of the county," he said.

Sending inmates to other jails can cost millions of dollars a year. But this $70 million bond election is aimed at preventing a jail shutdown.

"With guidance from the jail commission they think we're better off to build new," Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom said.

If passed, this would mean a seven cent increase for the next 30 years. For someone who lives in a $100,000 home, it would cost them $70 more per year in taxes.

"The proposals we got ranged from $70 million up to about $117 million. We felt like this was all we could come honestly to the voters and ask for (...) at this time," Judge Gossom said.

As work orders pile up at the current county facilities, Sheriff Duke said time is of the essence.

"I just can't tell you how bad our system is and if it gets broken to the point where we can't use it, it's going to cost the county taxpayer, myself (included), a whole lot more in the long run then it will be to take care of this (now)," he said.

If the bond passes in May the facility will be built on the west side of the current jail annex on Central Freeway.

Samantha Forester, Newschannel 6

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