Denton County officials are ready to proceed with the expansion of the county jail.
Commissioners on Tuesday approved a contract with Irving-based Satterfield & Pontikes Construction Inc. to build the nearly $27 million project.
“This is something we have been working towards and planning for a long, long time,” County Judge Mary Horn said. “Our architects have come up with a good plan, and this is just the first phase. Jail construction is very expensive, but there’s also going to be some modifications made to existing facilities that will make some much needed improvements and something we can see pretty quick.”
One of those improvements at the Sheriff’s Office complex near Woodrow Lane and McKinney Street is an express corridor between the pre-trial building and the old jail.
“Right now, to move things from the old jail on the east side [of the complex] to the pre-trial center on the west side, they literally have to put prisoners in vans and transport them,” Horn said. “That takes time and manpower. In the future, there will be transportation through a tunnel, reducing chances for escape and the manpower.”
In addition to the corridor, construction manager Mike Tubiolo said the campus will include a four-story security tower, 384 beds — some of them open dormitory cells, some single-cell, some double-cell — a medical unit, a special-needs unit for some of the high-risk inmates or ones with health concerns and utility and site drainage renovation.
After the contract was awarded, more negotiations took place between the county, the city and the firm, including a deal with the city of Denton to build on city-owned right of way. The jail expansion is part of a master plan that will feature improvements to the juvenile area and law enforcement center.
“This is the first one we are building from the master plan,” Tubiolo said.
The bulk of the funding for the project is from voter-approved bonds, with some contingency money being used for some of the improvements.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Tubiolo said. “The contractor is very sophisticated. They have a lot of jail [construction] experience, and I think it is going to be a good project.”
Commissioners also approved a $1.5 million budget amendment request from Sheriff Benny Parkey to allocate money from the office’s forfeiture funds, to buy supplies and equipment. Some of the money will also go to the constables and area police departments, and a little more than $100,000 will go to the Children’s Advocacy Center.
In a letter to the court, Parkey said he had one last gesture of public service to make before leaving office at the end of the month.
“When I came into office, I put into place a drug enforcement unit that has been recognized nationally for their efforts and cooperative work with [other] agencies,” Parkey wrote. “It is my intent to spend the lion’s share of these funds on projects at the Denton County Sheriff’s Office.”
Purchases could include in-car camera systems, radios, computers and vests. The funds to the advocacy center would go toward training for forensic interviews and victim services to aid in the investigation and prosecution of crimes against children in Denton County.
In an interview last week, Parkey said he still planned to leave more money in that fund than was there when he took office.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Commissioner Hugh Coleman said. “The tobacco settlement funds we used to pay for those items in the past have diminished tremendously due to low interest rates, and if officials can make up those funds with forfeiture funds, I think that is a great idea. It’s a great way to help those social service agencies that qualify.”
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .