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Ground broken on jail project

By Megan Gray / Staff Writer

Taxpayers who voted for the Denton County Jail expansion more than four years ago are finally seeing their votes come to fruition.

On Tuesday, county and city officials, along with construction and architect crews, came together to break ground on the first phase of the project.

“Our hope is for this to be a transformative project for Denton County,” said Jim Henry, vice president and design principal of HDR Inc., the architecture firm overseeing the project.

Phase one of the project, first approved by voters as part of a $22.5 million 2008 bond package, will cost an estimated $30.7 million. The remaining money will come from tax notes and the county infrastructure program, local officials said Tuesday.

The first phase is expected to be completed in 2015, county officials said.

The building won’t be an ordinary jail facility, Henry said. “Everything about this project is designed to not only be efficient internally but externally as well.”

At 87,000 square feet, the expansion will include 384 beds for dormitory, double-occupancy cells and single-occupancy cells. It also includes plans for medical and dental facilities.

This will be the 25th jail HDR has built in Texas. The firm is currently building Dallas County’s jail expansion as well, company officials said.

HDR was also part of the team that built Denton County’s administrative complex off Loop 288.

“One of the interesting aspects about this [jail] is we will not just be sitting down another building side by side,” Henry said.

The new facility, near Woodrow Lane and McKinney Street, will sit at a 15-degree angle in order to have an “express corridor” between the main jail, pretrial and expansion facilities to ease the movement of inmates. Currently, inmates must be bused in vans from one place to another.

This is the first in a series of expansion phases for the jail. The complete master plan also will include improvements to the juvenile facility and law enforcement center.

Staff writer Bj Lewis contributed to this report.

MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is .