County jail getting much needed repairs

MARFA – The Presidio County Jail is a significant source of revenue for the county, but it hasn’t been accepting prisoners since September so the county can complete repairs required to get the building back up to state standards.

The sheriff’s office says planned upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) were under way when the work revealed additional issues, to address the replacement of old wiring and work on the automatic door locking system, while a fire exhaust system could not be integrated with the new HVAC system.

The county auditor estimates the total cost of jail repairs to be about $972,000.

The office of Sheriff Danny Dominguez said, “The Presidio County Jail has not housed any U.S. Marshal inmates since the end of July 2018 and no local inmates since the end of September 2018. The average monthly revenue the jail generates is approximately $150,000 before expenses. The county has been able to put about $500,000 in reserves annually over the past couple of years.”

Since the jail stopped taking prisoners in September, there is no revenue coming in, and the jail has been operating on this surplus. Presidio County Auditor Patty Roach reported the jail brought in nearly $1.5 million in revenue for the county in the last year alone. The county’s primary source of revenue from the jail is a contract with the U.S. Marshal Service that brings in $65 per day per prisoner. The county treasurer confirms operation costs include about 11 jail staff that have stayed on to assist with the jail renovations. The jail administrator, records clerk, correction officers, food service workers and maintenance staff have all remained on the county payroll.

According to the sheriff’s office, while prisoners are not in the jail, “staff is painting the cells, making minor repairs, replacing hardware and attending training.”

The county budget shows the combined monthly salaries of the jail staff at roughly $567,000 per year, totaling around $141,750 of costs over the last three month.

The county now must pay to house its few local prisoners to other jails at a cost of $48 per day per prisoner, not including transportation costs, according the county auditor.

County Judge Cinderela Guevara said jail employees have been working hard to get the jail back in shape to begin receiving prisoners again. She said they have continued to work their regular shifts and will sometimes find employees painting as early as three o’clock in the morning.

The judge said the old evaporative heating and cooling system caused a lot of moisture to accumulate and damaged the paint throughout the building. This damage, in addition to the damaged caused by inmates, resulted in a lot of necessary cleanup and maintenance to the building.

The Texas Commission on Jail Standards completed a jail inspection in October of this year where they found “the [jail] is currently depopulated…due to the Smoke Management System being inoperative.” A commission representative said had the jail been populated at the time of the inspection, they would have been cited for noncompliance with state standards. Before the jail can begin receiving prisoners again it will need to be re-inspected by the state. Judge Guevara said depending on the timing of this inspection, the jail is expected to begin taking prisoners again, perhaps as soon as the end of this month.