Sheriff requests 50 new jail hires

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$3.1 million proposed for staffing facility set to open next summer

With the 2013-14 fiscal year budget planning underway, new hires are in the mix for Denton County. For the Sheriff’s Office, that would mean more than 50 new personnel.

Sheriff William Travis said the request for additional personnel is solely for the new jail facility currently under construction.

New hires, if approved by the Commissioners Court, would include six corporal positions, one captain, one lieutenant and two sergeants. The remaining personnel would be correctional officers, Travis said.

The 87,000-square-foot jail expansion broke ground in January and will include 384 beds for dormitory, double-occupancy cells and single-occupancy cells. In addition to the new beds, medical and dental facilities will be on site.

The state requires the county to hire more medical staff because of the additional inmates the county will be allowed to hold, Travis said. Five medical personnel are requested in the new budget as well, but their salaries would not come directly from the Sheriff’s Office budget, he said.

Donna Stewart, budget director for the county, said the costs associated with the jail facility would increase the sheriff’s overall 2013-14 recommended budget by $4.1 million. Of the $4.1 million proposed for the new facility, $3.1 million is to cover the requested hires and their benefit packages provided by the county, Stewart said. The remaining balance is slated for jail maintenance and operation costs.

The proposed recommended budget for the Sheriff’s Office sits at $49 million.

The new jail, expected to open in late August 2014, is the first phase of an ongoing expansion project. In a 2008 bond election, voters approved $22.5 million to cover construction costs. The total balance last reported by county officials was estimated at more than $30 million. The additional monies needed, county officials said in recent interviews, will come from tax notes and the county infrastructure program.

Travis said that with the expansion, the county will be able to house up to 1,432 inmates without exceeding limits set by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. Currently, the Denton County Sheriff’s Office can house more than 1,200 inmates without overcrowding.

Four separate outside building units, which currently house 48 inmates each, will be demolished during the construction, Travis said.

“All 192 inmates from the separate units will be brought in to the new 384-bed facility,” he said.

The new hiring process, Stewart said, is slated to begin in May and will run through July 2014, with the exception of the five medical staff hires, who will be hired beginning next February through August.

“The early hires will go through the training they need before the jail opens,” Stewart said.

Since the additional staff will be on county payroll for just a few months of the fiscal year, only $1.3 million from the estimated $3.1 million for new hires will be taken from the 2014 budget, county officials said.

Travis said the department’s working 2013-14 budget remains about the same as the previous year, unless commissioners decide otherwise.

“We aren’t buying any vehicles this year,” he said. “So the new hires are taking part of that budget; no additional money is free, really.”

Stewart agreed that not purchasing new cars helped the sheriff’s budget, saying that with the new jail requirements, this year’s proposed budget is a 2.62 percent increase over last year’s.

The proposed budget has two workshops planned before public hearings begin on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. County commissioners are scheduled to approve the 2013-14 budget on Sept. 10.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.

 


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