Categorized | Burnet County, Government, News

Burnet County to purchase jail from private owners for $14 million

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

Burnet County commissioners have approved the purchase of the Burnet County Jail, 900 County Lane in Burnet, for about $14 million. File photo

Burnet County commissioners have approved the purchase of the Burnet County Jail, 900 County Lane in Burnet, for about $14 million. File photo

BURNET — County commissioners have approved the purchase of the Burnet County Jail facility for about $14 million, officials say.

The privately-owned facility, located at 900 County Lane in Burnet, sits on land owned by the county, and the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office manages the day-to-day operations.

Private investors originally purchased the 587-bed facility seven years ago for about $38.5 million in bonds with a 20-year note.

The original arrangement involved a private contractor managing operations up until April of last year.

Under the agreement, contractors set aside 120 beds for the county and worked to fill the remainder of the jail with inmates from outside agencies. The aim was to ease an overcrowding situation at the old facility, which housed about 100 inmates.

The bonds went into default in 2014.

“The (investor) revenue bonds were not producing because the contracts went bad,” Burnet County Judge James Oakley said. “It’s nobody’s fault per se, and it’s not my position to point fingers or cast blame. It is what it is.”

On March 23, the county approved accepting an offer from the bond holders to acquire the facility.

“After studying the options, I’m pleased with the terms that we were able to negotiate, so I think it’s what’s best for immediate Burnet County needs and long-term needs,” Oakley said. “It will be available as a regional facility for neighboring facilities as well as contracting with other agencies like the U.S. Marshal’s Office.”

Aside from buying the facility, commissioners considered options such as expanding the old facility on Texas 29 East, which currently houses sheriff’s offices; constructing a new facility from the ground up; looking for an alternate building to modify for incarceration needs; or purchasing the current jail from bond holders.

“Once the sale is approved, then we will go out and issue debt on that $14 million. That $14 million figure represents 39 cents on the dollar when compared to the original bond issue,” Oakley said. “The whole point is to not increase the tax rate to fund (the facility).

“We are going to get $850,000 cash back at closing that we will use to establish its own reserve fund for contingencies,” Oakley added. “That way, we’re not taking on a drain from a large facility.”

The closing on the sale is expected in July.

connie@thepicayune.com

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