Smith County Jail Expansion Nears Completion

TYLER, Texas — Construction on the $35 million Smith County Jail expansion project in Tyler is scheduled for completion before December, months behind schedule. Last spring, the commissioner’s court said that, despite the delay, the project would stay within budget; however, the Tyler Morning Telegraph recently reported that the project’s final touches may require more money than originally budgeted.
Commissioner Jeff Warr told the Tyler Morning Telegraph he believes enough of the voter-approved bond money remains to finish the project, but other punch-list items and incidentals, such as Americans with Disabilities Act-approved benches and tables for inmate dayrooms, are making it more expensive.
Throughout the project, commissioners approved 11 change orders totaling $836,428, according to the county auditor’s office.
One of the biggest changes was upgrading the facility to maximum security, a decision commissioners believe will extend the jail’s life by giving it the most inmate classification options. Architect and Senior Project Manager Halden Tally of Dallas-based HDR Inc. told the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the overall project performance was good despite unexpected changes and complications posed by construction within an existing jail.
Smith County broke ground on the 87,000-square-foot expansion project in April 2012. Phase 1 included the 1,400-square-foot building that will serve as the jail’s kitchen, laundry and video visitation center. Moving the laundry and kitchen operations frees up room in the downtown facility. It was also designed with efficiencies that will help the jail save money in the long run.
Phase 2 involves expanding the downtown facility to hold 384 more inmates than the current capacity of 755. All cells in the downtown jail will be equipped for maximum-security inmates. The expansion will help end inmate transfers to other counties, which has been necessary since 2004 to meet state inmate population standards.
Voters originally approved the project in May 2011.