$187M in improvements needed to law enforcement complex

A consultant working with Midland County on a law enforcement complex master plan, including jail facilities, is recommending a series of improvements that could reach $187 million.

Burns Architecture told the Commissioners’ Court that its recommendations and suggested priorities include that the county construct: 

  • A new jail in a new location. “While more expensive initially, it provides the best, most cost-effective, long-term solution. This should be the county’s highest priority,” according to the executive summary of the report presented to county leaders on Monday. Estimated probable cost: $124 million
  • New Justices of the Peace offices and courtrooms, constables’ offices and a warrants office building on county owned land adjacent to the current law enforcement complex on South Main Street. Estimated probable cost: $16 million.
  • A new Sheriff’s Office. “While slightly more expensive initially, it provides the best long-term solution,” according to the executive summary. Estimated probable cost: $31 million.
  • A mental health transitional facility. “At the time of this writing, there are indications that the state of Texas is considering construction of a mental health facility in Midland. Further discussion regarding this facility should be held until more details about the state’s proposed facility are made available,” according to the executive summary. Estimate probable cost: $16 million.

A representative of Burns Architecture told the court the very preliminary $187 million number would not include land costs.

He recommended that commissioners begin to put into place the process for a conceptual plan. Once a conceptual plan, schematic designs and construction documents are in place, the county would be ready to move forward. All three could take 12-15 months.

The major facility item is the jail. The executive summary presented stated that the current jail “has many shortcomings and requires an extensive renovation plus an expansion to accommodate the projected future capacity.” It also said that renovating and expanding the current jail requires an estimated budget of $73 million (versus $124 million) and would take five to six years to complete (versus three to four). It also was stated that the county would incur costs of having to ship inmates to and from other jails during the process of renovating the current Midland County jail. Other potential problems would be obtaining the needed land in that area south of downtown.

The recommended plan would allow the county to construct a new jail that is more operationally efficient, capable of future expansions and with a longer life expectancy. Potentially, 892 beds would be possible.

The study showed the Sheriff’s Office to be “cramped,” “aging” and needing around twice as much room as the current office provides. There are also parking issues, according to Burns Architecture.

“Renovating the existing Sheriff’s Office and constructing the additional building needed has an estimated budget of $20 (million) and would take four to five years to complete,” the executive summary stated. “Constructing a new Sheriff’s Office at a remote site has an estimated budget of $31 million would take 2 ½ – three years to complete.”

The third priority for Justice of the Peace offices and courtrooms, constable offices and warrants offices would bring all three into a single building, creating efficiencies according to the report.

“Constructing this new building … would take 2 ½ – three years to complete,” the report stated.

Likewise, a proposed mental health transition facility would take 2 ½ to three years to complete. “This is an entirely new concept intended to assist the mentally ill and ease the burden on the county jail by placing mentally ill persons who commit low level crimes in an alternative setting and keep them from being housed in the jail,” the report stated.

There wasn’t much discussion on the item as it was just a presentation.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Scott Ramsey offered the following statement to the Reporter-Telegram following the meeting.

“Several months ago, the Midland County Commissioners’ Court began the process of evaluating the Law Enforcement Complex. Because of the growth of Midland County and the surrounding area, our jail population has increased. We have been pushing the limits of capacity for some time. In order to get out in front of this issue, we commissioned an architecture firm that is an expert in law enforcement facilities to devise plans and programs looking forward 20-50 years. This study includes the jail, Sheriff’s Office, justice of peace/constables and mental health transition facility. I would like to stress that this is just an initial study. More work is necessary before we come to the citizens of Midland County with a proposed plan. Between now and then we invite everyone to give their thoughts and inputs. Projects such as these are expensive and must be thoroughly studied so that we take care of today’s needs as well as looking to the future.”