The Rockwall County Commissioner’s Court heard an update on the progress of the proposed jail expansion and renovation, as well as possible future maintenance on area dams at a regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday morning.

Mark Starr with Broaddus & Associates, the consulting firm working with the county on the plans for the jail, gave an update to the commissioners on the planning progress. Starr said that estimates for the cost of the project were initially much higher than the expected $38 million amount. Changes were made to the site plan for the project, cutting out much of the major renovation and focusing on new construction, which was less costly due to no need of demolition and other factors that go into major renovation work.

The new plan keeps the beds on the north side of the facility, instead of the proposed demolition, as well as adding 256 new beds, The total bed count would jump to 477.

The estimated cost would rise to just over $40 million, still within the parameters of the $50.27 million bond issue that was passed in the November 2018 election.

No action needed to be taken, but there were plenty of questions asked by the commissioners. Commissioner Magness said that he wanted to see better figures in the future.

“It sounds to me like we are a long way from where we need to be on this,” Magness said.

The commissioners also heard a presentation from Owen Cantrell with the Kaufman-Van Zandt-Rockwall Soil & Water Conservation District. The court approved applications in June of this year for eight dams that needed to be either repaired or upgraded. The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board identified two of these dams, one designated 5B Lake Rockwall Estates and the other 5C Wallace, and hired an engineering firm to come up with preliminary figures. The projected costs for the work on the Lake Rockwall and Wallace dams would be $8 million and $3 million, respectively.

The state board is looking for a a go-ahead from the county to continue engineering services, but the county would not be obligated to spend any funds until the final plan is completed, then a contract would need to be signed to proceed.

Rockwall County would currently have to pay five-percent of the cost, but a measure could go before Governor Greg Abbott that would lower that number to 1.75 percent. A decision to proceed with engineering must be made by Oct. 31.

Commissioner Dennis Bailey suggested meeting with the City of Rockwall to put an interlocal agreement in place to share some of the costs.

The commissioners decided to schedule a meeting with city officials to work out an agreement, and to place the item back on the agenda to vote whether or not to give the state the go-ahead to continue engineering work on the dams.

In addition, the commissioners heard a presentation by the Black & Veatch Corporation about the county’s shared system radio network used by emergency personnel. The representatives said other entities such as the city of Greenville were interested in joining the network and building infrastructure off of it for its use. This could help offset the costs of maintenance and provide infrastructure growth for the future.

No agreement was put in place, but the commissioners gave their blessing to hear from vendors that would facilitate the service.

One resident spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, suggesting that the Commissioner’s Court hold its meetings at a different time, since some residents would not be able to attend due to it being during the middle of a weekday. The resident also called for transparency regarding the methodology used to justify the controversial raises for the commissioners and County Judge passed last month.

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