The Coryell County Commissioners Court voted to accept conditions for a $21.9 million loan to build a new jail and law enforcement center, but the conditions are not binding and acceptance of the loan will ultimately be decided by voters in November.That said, some locals seem to think the voters won't go for it because repaying the loan would require a tax increase:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Farm Service Agency is offering the loan in response to an application the county filed in September, hoping to get a grant.
The interest rate for the loan will be either 4.6 percent, or the rate at the time of loan closing if it is lower. The county will repay the loan over 40 years.
Renovating the current 92-bed capacity jail or building a bigger facility altogether has been the topic of much discussion by Coryell County commissioners since 2010, when a report from the Texas Commission of Jail Standards projected the facility would need no fewer than 144 beds daily by 2027 to house inmates.
County Sheriff Johnny Burks pointed out accepting the loan would mean taxes would increase.I find it bizarre that the federal government is financing local jails in any event, but it's particularly odd for such funds to come from the Department of Agriculture as opposed to the Justice Department or some other thematically related agency. What's not surprising is that local voters might reject new jail construction out of concern over taxes, which has become a recurring theme in such county-level debates.
County residents Ron Poston and Norm Whitelend said they didn't think voters would approve the measure in an effort to keep taxes down.
Still, Commissioner Daren Moore said the court should move forward.
"I think we have to do something," he said. "I think it would be irresponsible for us to not at least move forward and let the voters decide where they want us to go."
The court unanimously approved the measure, which gives it one year to meet the conditions outlined in the letter and does not obligate it to do anything further. [County Judge John] Firth said if the court wanted to back out before April 2012, it could do so.
RELATED: US Department of Agriculture should stay out of the jail building business