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Concerns for jail mounting

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Trinity Countyseal 200By Tony Farkas
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GROVETON — There is no question that that county needs to build a jail, but there are many questions as to the path to that goal.

At the Feb. 8 Trinity County Commissioners Court meeting, hours of discussion resulted in no action either on building a temporary jail facility or hiring a contractor for consultation services.

The consultation would deal only with preliminary information, such as population measures and site recommendations.

Sheriff Woody Wallace said that the contractor firm — Brinkley, Sargent and Wiginton Architects of Waco — would be able to provide information such as water tables, utilities use and more.

County Attorney Colton Hay said that given the information is necessary, if the county did not contract with the firm, what firm would it contract with to get the necessary work done?

“We’ll lose momentum if we don’t jump at this right now,” he said. 

County Judge Doug Page said there have been questions about this being the only firm, and that other firms needed to be given the opportunity to bid, and Commissioner Mike Loftin said the court needed more than one option to consider.

However, Wallace said that was the purpose of the Jail Committee, since the committee had met with other architects already.

“We’re going to kick this can down the road and end up in a huge bind,” Wallace said.

Wallace also said that hiring the contractor was not hiring for jail construction, but only for preliminary investigation, which has to be done.

Commissioner Neal Smith said that the county will build a jail, but in a cautious manner, and the final vote will be up to the people of the county.

Wallace cautioned again that the county is facing a time limit, and it needs to stop kicking the can down the road.

In a related matter, the county also tabled building a temporary jail on county land near the Groveton Fire Department.

Page said that the more it’s talked about, more he is opposed to building such a structure.

“Why spend money for a temporary jail and then jump to building a new jail?” he asked. “We need to build a jail, but there is a process.”

In other business, the court:

• tabled a request from Apple Springs Volunteer Fire Department for funds;

• tabled a request from Pennington Water Supply for money for projects;

• tabled the purchase of a spacesaver roller unit for file storage;

• approved the sale of a pickup truck for $3,200;

• hired a part-time clerk for Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Richard Steptoe through the Texas Workforce Commission;

• approved a contract position for the District Attorney’s Office;

• approved the demolition of a county-owned building adjacent to the Groveton Fire Department; and

• discussed the county’s portion of a settlement from an opioid lawsuit, which will be more than $100,000.

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