Hopkins County Commissioners Court moved their work session Thursday from the courthouse to a county building on Rosemont Street at Houston Street, to inspect the condition of the structure and discuss potential proposals to replace it.
The structure, which had a hole in the roof, was purchased by the county prior to the construction of and move into the new Hopkins County Law Enforcement Center, District Court, Clerk and Attorney buildings. It was used to store items during the transition and continues to house some county property.
One corner of the building has been re-purposed and outfitted with a cooler to hang meat prior to it being processed and used to for inmates meals at the county jail, according to Hopkins County Sheriff Lewis Tatum.
County officials have been in discussions recently about what to do with the building. They’ve considered the cost to renovate it versus the cost to tear it down and put a new building on the site, as well as what the building could be used for in the future.
Meanwhile, the condition of the building continues to deteriorate with oak framing on one side of the building rotting and falling onto items stored there, Judge Robert Newsom and Tatum pointed out.
Commissioners had requested bids to build a new structure on the site. However, after further discussions, they opted to discuss the matter further. Companies interested in the project were invited to meet inside the facility Thursday to tour it and discuss potential proposals.
Trouble areas were apparent as daylight could be seen through holes in the roofing, into which rain dripped Thursday afternoon. The woodworking on one half of the structure shows serious water and age damage, with parts of some boards rotted out.
Tatum proposed using inmate labor and county precinct equipment to tear down the current building, leaving only the concrete foundation on which a new structure can be constructed.
Last week, county resources and inmates were used to tear down and remove debris from a smaller building located next to it in two days.
“I believe we can take the building apart in two weeks using trusties’ labor,” Tatum said.
Commissioners in two precincts have reportedly expressed interest in reusing any salvageable building part, including oak boards and metal sheets.
Tatum said he’d like to see the proposed new building used to work on county vehicles. Use for inmate training programs and storage were also discussed.
The judge and sheriff said they’d be open to the possibility of working with an educational institution with a recognize training facility, such as Paris Junior College, for educational programs for inmates at the facility.
Tatum said offering training for inmates can help provide skills those individuals can use when released from custody, with a goal of providing a means for former inmates to support themselves and their families, and hopefully reduce the recurrence of individuals returning to jail.
Already, Tatum said numerous inmates are working in the community, including with precinct road crews, learning valuable work skills, which can and already have for some, translate to jobs for those released from custody.
Officials have been in contact with Texas WorkForce regarding potential grants which would help with inmate training and education, according to the judge.
“There are $150,000 in grant funding for Northeast Texas, and we want to be sure Hopkins County takes full advantage of opportunities such as this for potential funding,” Newsom said.
Tatum has proposed instead of using funds raised through tax dollars, using funds coming into the county for housing inmates from other counties and transport services, to pay for all or part of construction of a new county building.
Discussed is putting a 60-foot by 75-foot building on the existing 80- x 75-foot concrete pad, with a 22 foot awning on the south side. Tatum said he’d like the front of the new building to be turned facing Rosemont Street, opposite from the current building. County vehicles could be driven in from two sides for work, and big trucks could enter from the other side to be worked on in-house, the sheriff said.
If a proposal or bid is accepted in the next month, Newsom anticipates the structure would soon be torn down. Construction of the new building is anticipated to take less than 6 months, and would begin in the spring. That should see a new building completed within a year, according to Newsom.
Tatum said he’d like to see no center beams in the middle of the building, but an open area, brightly lit with LED lighting, providing room and light for work inside the new structure.
Newsom said the specifications call for the building to be constructed in a way that solar panels could be added in the future, to better self support it.
Newsom said the county saves approximately $1,500 a month on the electric bill thanks to the solar panels installed on Hopkins County jail. At that rate, the officials estimate savings from having solar panels on the Houston-Rosemont Street building would, over a period of time, make up the cost of a new building.
Newsom said the county is on the lookout for grants that would allow them to add solar panels to other county facilities in the future.
No decisions had been made regarding the site and a new building as Thursday’s meeting was only a work session. The matter is expected to be discussed again and presented for approval at an upcoming commissioners court meeting.