By Rachel Leber
ODESSA, Texas — The Ector County Detention Center in Odessa is finally finding reprieve for a years-long struggle with overcrowding at the facility. Construction began on the expansion of the detention center in February 2018. What is known as the Ector County Law Enforcement Center Project will provide much-needed and updated space for Ector County inmates and staff.
The expansion of the facility will create an additional 65,000 square feet of additions and interior renovations for the facility, with 412 new beds. These updates will provide a savings of up to $8,000 per day for Ector County, as it will prevent them from having to spend this amount on out-of-county housing for overflow.
In addition to cutting down on costs, the jail expansion will improve overall safety by eliminating long inmate transports, and will reduce the amount of missed court dates and delays, while making sure defendants in cases can more easily stay in contact with their lawyers, according to a recent article from OA Online.
Odessa-based JSA Architects Inc. is the architect selected for the project, with Cooper Construction Co. based out of Midland, Texas, serving as the general contractor. The budget for the expansion is $23 million, and the project is expected to be completed within 20 months — ideally by September 2019, according to Cruz Castillo III, managing principal and principal in charge for the Ector County Law Enforcement Center Project.
One goal of the of the detention center expansion is to increase the number of detention beds — the existing detention bed count is 667. With the additional bed count from the expansion the new total bed count will be 1,079 once construction is completed. In addition, other goals of the expansion are to provide a new larger kitchen and to build better medical support areas and storage capacity in the facility.
In addition to the expansions are renovation improvements addressing life cycle items to help the entire campus sustain for more years to come, according to Castillo. Improvements range from mechanical equipment replacements and new paint for the exterior of all existing buildings.
The new facility will meet and exceed all the requirements of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards,” said Castillo. “In addition, the security, surveillance and information technology equipment will be improved throughout the existing detention facility as well. All new construction is of load-bearing CMU and concrete construction to achieve maximum detention level designation.”
A major challenge for the project so far has been the 24/7 occupancy of the facility and not being able to take any building systems offline for construction, according to Castillo. Accomplishing this has required strategic planning for certain parts of interior renovations and overall project scope. “For the expansions, the site placement and planning has also been cumbersome due to planning around existing utility easements, pedestrian and vehicle circulation patterns,” said Castillo.
Interior circulation and placement of support spaces has been critical as well to keep amenities accessible to all areas of the facility, according to Castillo. “The expansion and improvements at the Ector County Law Enforcement Center will help sustain the existing campus for another 25 years and beyond,” said Castillo. “All of Ector County benefits anytime the county’s governmental infrastructure is improved. Once the project is complete, there will not be a need to transport detainees to other counties saving the county money and resources.”