Less than two weeks after the ceremonial groundbreaking, the Ector County Law Enforcement Center’s jail expansion encountered a setback in the shape of a storm drainage pipe where the expansion will be built.
Interim Building Maintenance Director Charlie Pierce said the pipe would need to be moved, as it is not permitted to be placed underneath concrete, and was only found upon digging it up as they began construction on the expansion.
The delay will be short, Pierce said, and the movement of the drainage pipe is expected to be completed by the end of next week.
This is the second delay in the construction of the jail expansion. The groundbreaking, initially scheduled to take place sometime in January, was pushed back to Feb. 1 after waiting on approval from the Texas Jail Commission and some minor changes being made by the architect.
Sheriff Mike Griffis previously said the expansion is expected to be complete in about 20 months, but another week of delays in construction could mean another week the county has to spend on sending inmates to jails in other counties.
Ector County currently has contracts with eight other counties for housing inmates, which costs around $8,000 a day. Those counties are Parker, Hudspeth, Hale, Limestone, Lynn, McClennan, Scurry and Terry Counties, although Ector County may not be housing inmates in the eight other counties at all times.
Around $3 million was budgeted this fiscal year for housing inmates outside of the county jail, including transportation costs for taking inmates back and forth to the courthouse.
The jail expansion will cost the county $18.9 million, funded through debt. The permanent structure will add 412 beds to the jail in a new 60,000 square foot building, which will be permitted to house even the highest security inmates.
County officials have said the expansion will also improve safety by eliminating the long inmate transports and reduce the amount of missed court dates and delays.
Griffis previously said the expansion would also require about 20 additional workers, and expects to ask the county to fund some staff increases in the meantime for transporting prisoners until the expansion is completed.
As of Tuesday, the county has 123 jailer positions with 15 vacancies.