June 19, 2007
County bonds coming

Get ready for a bond proposition on the November ballot, courtesy of Commissioner's Court.

Commissioners Court originally thought the bond package would total $500 million to $600 million when it goes before voters in November.

But pressing needs have come to light in several departments, and as much as $962 million in bonds may be required to carry out the projects, according to documents from the county budget office.

Among the massive projects are a $100 million Family Law Center, a $100 million Medical Examiner's Office, a $245 million jail and booking area and a $110 million juvenile detention center.


The Texas Commission on Jail Standards cited the county adult jails last year for inadequate staffing and overcrowding. Meanwhile, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission has found overcrowding at the county's juvenile detention facilities.

The county could ask voters to spend $213 million on the central processing center, a booking area that also would include a 2,500-bed adult jail and expanded medical and mental-health treatment areas. Voters this year approved allowing the city to contribute $32 million to the project.

The question I have here is the same question I've had all along, which is whether or not the county will do something about the underlying causes of our jail overcrowding problem, and if they plan on spending the dough to hire enough guards so that they don't have to leave cells empty to compensate for the shortage. Because if not, then I hope these bond proposals are broken into separate pieces so I can vote against the one to build more jail space.

Voters may also be asked to spend $76 million to renovate the former adult jail at 1301 Franklin and turn much of it into a juvenile detention facility. Another option could be to raze the building and construct a $110 million detention facility.

Family law judges have been clamoring for a new Family Law Center for several years -- a project that would cost $85 million.

Commissioners Court will decide whether to carry out an $84 million expansion and renovation of the current courthouse at Congress and San Jacinto; build a $97 million courthouse on the site of the current courthouse or next to it; or build a $94 million courthouse at Franklin and San Jacinto, across from the current building.

The Medical Examiner's Office needs more spacious facilities to carry out a growing amount of sophisticated forensic work done in crime labs, Raycraft said.

His office has recommended that the county construct a $114 million, 205,000-square-foot building on Harvin, across from the current office.

At first glance, most of the rest of this sounds okay, but given the build-jails-first, ask-questions-later approach that the Court was adopting earlier, I'll reserve judgment until I hear more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 19, 2007 to Local politics

Charles Bacarisse and Ed Emmett appear to be heading toward a rough and tumble primary.

A group of Republican leaders from across Harris County today announced the formation of a "Friends of Charles Bacarisse" committee http://www.friendsofcharlesbacarisse.com/ to encourage the 43 year-old District Clerk to run for County Judge. The group of "Bacarisse Backers" is already gathering political and financial support for the effort. Learn more about Charles Bacarisse http://www.bacarisse.com/ and the Friends of Charles Bacarisse committee http://www.friendsofcharlesbacarisse.com/

In a backroom deal, the Harris County Court unanimously appointed Ed Emmett www.politicalgraveyard.com/bio/emest-engle.html to replace Robert Eckels, who resigned on March 6, 2007. What is worse for Harris County residents is Judge Emmett will continue to own The Emmett Company and direct the overall strategy, but daily operations will be handled his wife and family. Republican voters have serious concerns because of the conflict of interests.

Posted by: transparencywatchdog on June 19, 2007 3:02 PM

These are the very departments that will see increased demands as households grapple with the stress of increasing tax burdens. I guess Commissioners Court is still looking for that optimum balance between income and expenses. (joke)

Posted by: Charles Hixon on June 19, 2007 7:32 PM