LUBBOCK, Texas–With overcrowding at the Lubbock County Detention Center continuing, Sheriff Kelly Rowe proposed a plan to expand the jail by adding a wing to the existing jail. The expansion was estimated to cost $464 Million.
“I can tell you firsthand that that number was very shocking to me and I did not expect that I knew it would be more expensive,” Sheriff Rowe said.
With the final dollar amount almost reaching half a billion dollars, the sheriff said he could not believe it himself, but it really all came down to inflation.
“Estimates given to us from the general contractor that built the existing detention center, estimated by the time you average everything out it overly technical on it that we built that for about $250 square foot in today’s dollars with inflation,” Sheriff Rowe said.
To expand the jail and add 966 additional beds to the current 1,512, the new project would cost $800 per square foot, compared to the $250 per square foot when the jail was opened in 2010.
The sheriff said not just construction materials are on the rise, but the cost of the beds, security systems and adding staff to keep up with more inmates are also increasing. The sheriff said jails and hospitals are some of the most costly things to construct for a city and it was the last thing he wanted to do.
“They’ll outpace obviously homes, commercial business construction, sports venues, those types of things,” said Sheriff Rowe. “It’s just the nature of what those buildings are and most importantly, it’s the complex systems they have within them, it’s not just a matter of brick and mortar and steel, there are a lot of complex systems that have to run behind the scenes.”
Both Sheriff Rowe and Deputy Chief Cody Scott with the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office said this is a problem cities all over the state are facing. They currently house hundreds of inmates in 13 neighboring counties, busing them back and forth due to the overcrowding.
“We average between probably 175 and 200 inmates that we’re housing in other countries at any given time,” Chief Scott said.
Chief Scott said the jail is in need of this expansion to keep up with the growing population of the city and the increase in crime. Chief Scott said not only will the expansion alleviate problems here, but in other countries, needing that space as well.
“We are able to find beds there today, but there’s no guarantee that six, eight months from now that we’re going to be able to find beds because we’re competing with Tarrant County, Collin County, Dallas, Houston area, San Antonio, all the big jails are looking for bed space because we’re all in the same position,” Chief Scott said.
The Sheriff and Chief said they were hoping to see the proposal on the November ballot to be voted on by the public, but the Commissioner’s court struck it down.
“It adds to the challenge because it adds time that we could have been using to move forward, we can’t move forward until that bond election happens,” Chief Scott said.
The Sheriff said the project is now on hold until it can be placed on the ballot and voted on.