SWEETWATER, Texas - It's been a long time coming, but ground was finally broken Monday on the new Nolan County jail and sheriff's office project.
Members of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and representatives from an architect firm and construction company were on site for the ground-breaking event.
It's been almost a full year since voters approved a measure to build the new jail and sheriff's office.
The project was supposed to begin last summer, but money issues stalled the progress.
Nolan County Sheriff David Warren said he's excited to see this project begin.
"We've been housing excess prisoners out for nearly 14 years and so the need has been here for a long time, so we're glad to get this project underway," Warren said.
Warren said the current jail is facing compliance issues and the space can't handle the increasing number of offenders.
"They have to be separated certain ways by severity of the offense, as well as male and female and so we've run into a lot of issues there," Warren said. "There's a lot more female offenders now than there has been in the past."
The project's architect, Bob Olson of Plano, said this new facility will be much safer than the current jail.
"The facility they have now is very staff-intensive," Olson said. "They have to go through multiple floors, they have open bars that inmates can throw stuff through or reach out through. This new facility will be a maximum security from top to bottom."
The project ended up costing about $600,000 more than the amount approved by voters in last year's bond election.
"It's still going to cost more than we had originally intended, but we did some trimming and cost-saving measures to get it down as much as we could," Warren said. "It's going to come down to about a $12.2 million project."
"I think the public is understanding of the fact that construction costs are going up and that we had to get this project done," Warren said. "We're facing a situation where we were in a compliance issue with our current jail inside the courthouse, so we had to get it done," he said.
Warren said the difference in the project cost will be paid for out of the County's coffers.
Work has already begun on the new facility and is expected to be completed by October of next year.
The new facility is "state-of-the-art, but not fancy," according to Olson.
It will be double the size of the current jail at 36,000 square feet.
It will be able to house 96 beds, which is double the capacity of the current jail.
Currently, offenders for whom there is no room for in the current jail are sent to the jail in Mitchell County.
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