Why Some Residents Say The Wichita Co. Jail Bond Won't Pass

WICHITA FALLS - If Wichita County taxpayers vote yes for a new jail facility in May, they can expect to see a 7 percent increase in taxes over the next 30 years. And, that's something county officials say is a need rather than a want.

And, Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana is among those who do not see the bond passing.

"I think it's a tough endeavor for the county to eat a 70 million dollar bond issue right now," said Santellana.

Santellana said he does not see the people of Wichita County getting behind the bond issue on May 6th.

"The city only has so much appetite for debt," Santellana said. "I know there's some greater things that the city is looking towards. I think right now the ISD is going to start looking at a new high school proposal, I think the city right now will get behind that. The last high school proposal didn't go through, so a $70 million jail is going to be a tougher pill to swallow for the citizens of Wichita Falls."

"A lot of the taxpayers don't have that kind of money to share, they've got a family. It takes a lot of money to raise a family," said one Wichita Falls resident.

If the bond passes, the new jail on 20-acres of land at the Sprague Annex will include about 670 beds and a layout county officials say will increase safety of inmates and officers.

And, Burkburnett Lieutenant Lahoma Vaughn believes the jail, book-in center, and law enforcement facility would be a plus for officers who sometimes spend hours booking in inmates they've transported.

"What I do know is that we need to fix the problem where we can get down there, drop them off in a timely manner where we can get back and continue doing our job for the city of Burkburnett," said Vaughn.

But, Vaughn believes after Burkburnett residents approved a school bond in 2015 and construction on a new justice center is set to begin next month, they might vote no to the new jail.

As far as Mayor Santellana, he said it would have just been a better idea for Wichita Falls and Wichita County to work together on the project.

"Last talks we had was talking about a downtown like justice center that we wanted to have that was going to be with the county," said Santellana. "The city has a couple, two or three things that we need to get built, too. Doing these things jointly saves a lot of money for the citizens and you're talking about tens of millions of dollars."

Which is much for Wichita County residents to consider before the May election and to decide whether the new law enforcement center is worth paying more in taxes.

County officials say, if the bond passes, construction could begin in the fall and the facility would take an estimated 2 to 3 years to complete.


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