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Downtown jail's fate could be in jeopardy
By: Stacey Welsh
EL PASO, Texas -- The El Paso County Commissioners Court announced it will hold a special session Aug. 26 to discuss whether to build a new county jail or spend millions to renovate the current one. This session will be separate from its weekly meeting.
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said the county's facilities director came forward in commissioners court last week to say in order to keep running the current jail as is, it could cost millions more in the next few years. Escobar said in 10 years, the cost could be tens of millions more.
"Is it time in the next two or three years or maybe within the next five years to build a new facility? If that's the case, then we probably should not be replacing these huge systems," Escobar said. Escobar also said the county's budget officer found that a new, efficient jail could save taxpayers about $9 million a year just in operating costs.
As KFOX14 previously reported, costs related to getting rid of mold in the downtown county jail facility could come to about $1 million. That includes cleanup, moving prisoners and additional air sampling. While Escobar said the mold problem did not prompt the special session, it is another example of how much money the county is pouring into the aging building.
Some residents KFOX14 spoke with said they would also support the most cost-efficient option. "If it's more affordable just to build a new one and tear the old one down, then I think they should go ahead and do it," West El Paso resident Matthew Garcia said.
That is something the county plans to consider. "If we determine it's too costly... it's easier to just demolish it," Escobar said.