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County breaks ground on new jail
by Joe Baker
Oct 31, 2013 | 132 views | 0 0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Contributed image courtesy Lorraine Dailey
An artist’s rendering shows what the new Karnes County Jail is expected to look like when completed. Construction is expected to finish in October of 2014.
Contributed image courtesy Lorraine Dailey An artist’s rendering shows what the new Karnes County Jail is expected to look like when completed. Construction is expected to finish in October of 2014.
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Google photo

Outlined in yellow is a 4.38-acre tract of land adjacent to E. Wall Street in Karnes City where the new Karnes County Jail will be built.  The property was once the site of the Ahrens Gin and Mill before operations ceased many years ago. Size and location of county jail building in this illustration are approximate.
Google photo Outlined in yellow is a 4.38-acre tract of land adjacent to E. Wall Street in Karnes City where the new Karnes County Jail will be built. The property was once the site of the Ahrens Gin and Mill before operations ceased many years ago. Size and location of county jail building in this illustration are approximate.
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KARNES CITY – Without much fanfare, county officials and others involved with the construction of a new county jail, gathered together Oct. 25 for a private ground breaking ceremony for the $11.18 million facility.

The new jail will be built at a site near the intersection of E. Wall Street and S. Bond Street, located about 100 yards east of the city park and post office in Karnes City.

Voters approved $7 million in bond funds for the project in a bond election on Nov. 6, 2012. Sixty-nine percent of those who voted cast votes in favor of the bond project.

Since then, overall projected costs of the project have increased, so county officials have included $3.5 million in their capital outlay budget to cover additional costs associated with the project.

According to architect Lorraine Dailey, construction costs are expected to be $9.8 million. In addition to that, other costs associated with the project include $1.3 million in furnishings, fixtures, equipment, communications tower, bond issuance fees and environmental costs related to remediation of unacceptably high levels of arsenic found in soil at the site.

After selecting the site for the new jail, the county purchased the 4.38-acre lot from in August of 2011 from Karnes City at a price of $75,133. The property, locally known as the site of Ahrens Gin, which closed many years ago, was on the city’s sale list because of unpaid property taxes.

Dailey said the 27,000 square-foot facility will be a 48-bed jail designed so that it can be expanded to 96 beds, if needed. The facility will also include a courtroom as well as office space for the sheriff and deputies.

The jail is expected to meet the county’s needs for the next 50 years, Dailey explained.

Heavy equipment will begin moving earth at the site this week, and completion of the project is expected Oct. 21, 2014.

Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva told the Karnes Countywide during an interview last May, that he is looking forward to the project’s completion as the current jail is out of date, and is too small to meet his department’s current needs for housing inmates.

Not all residents share Villanueva’s enthusiasm, however.

At the time the county approved the purchase of the property, local residents expressed concerns about the jail’s location close to the city park where children play.

Another resident, whose home will be just a few feet from the jail after it is built, also expressed opposition to the site selected by county leaders.

County officials included $250,000 in their current budget to purchase property adjacent to the jail, if necessary.

The Karnes Countywide reached out to Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw for more information about the project and recent groundbreaking ceremony, but messages left with her office were not immediately returned.

CLARIFICATION: A groundbreaking ceremony for the Karnes County Jail Project was described as "private" in this story. According to Karnes County Judge Barbara Shaw, the event was not "private" due to the fact that a notice of possible quorum was posted on a bulletin board at the Karnes County Offices on the Square.
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