NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — Comal County, Texas, will soon begin construction on a new $76 million county jail. The 155,000-square-foot facility will house approximately 600 inmates and include a 16-bed infirmary, a booking area with temporary holding cells, support areas, a detention administration area and visitation spaces for attorneys and families. The project is also slated to include an approximately 68,000-square-foot renovation of the existing jail into office and operational space for the Comal County Sheriff’s Office.
Comal County voters earlier this year approved a $76 million bond to support construction the renovation and new construction project. The existing jail was built in 1985, and then had a capacity of just 144. It was expanded to its current size in 1999, and now has a capacity of 337. According to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, however, the jail’s effective maximum capacity is 300, which takes both new arrivals and proper inmate separation and classification into account.
The county has also grappled with a population boom since 2000. The jail’s current daily average population is 320, and the increase in inmate traffic has had an adverse affect on the building. As the jail has aged, maintenance and repairs have become increasingly costly, now averaging more than $200,000 annually,
including significant items such as a 2011 plumbing replacement that cost approximately $600,000, according to the county’s website.
HDR, a global justice design firm with multiple offices in the state, will lead the functional planning and design and the structural engineering, along with the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering (MEP) for the new jail. As a local knowledge expert in detention work, LMD Architects of San Antonio will assist during design and provide local support during construction contract administration for the project, according to a statement by HDR. HMT of New Braunfels Civil will provide civil engineering services. Another local engineering firm, M&S Engineering will handle MEP on the Sheriff’s Administration building and will assist with delivery of the structural engineering package for the jail.
“We’re recognized as a national leader in justice design, with a robust justice practice based in Dallas, Texas. Our team has planned and designed justice facilities for 41 years, with over 200,000 beds in detention facilities, using a collaborative design process,” said Mike Brenchley, HDR justice director, in a statement. The company has most recently designed major jail expansions in several Texas counties, including the Smith County Jail Expansion in Tyler, the Dallas County Medical Modernization project in Dallas, the Denton County Jail Expansion in Denton and the El Paso County Maximum Security Expansion in El Paso, scheduled to be completed in spring 2017.