The need — or lack thereof — for a new jail in Johnson County was a hot topic Wednesday night at the Republican Primary candidate forum, sponsored by the Texas Patriot Tea Party, the Johnson County Republican Party and Toastmasters Burleson.
Three of the five candidates for Precinct 4 commissioner attended the forum. All three agreed that the jail facilities have issues that must be addressed, and each praised the commissioners court’s vote on Monday to move forward in hiring an architect to advise the county on where to start in addressing those issues.
A.J. Mathieu, Tim Sinclair and Larry Woolley each said they believe the best solution will include renovation of some existing facilities — primarily the oldest part of the jail which was built in 1989 — and some new construction.
When asked if the question of funding jail renovations or construction should be put to voters in a referendum if the costs exceed $20 million, all three said the county can’t afford to risk having voters turn that referendum down.
Mathieu, Sinclair and Woolley, along with David Patterson and Bart Basham, are running to replace Precinct 4 incumbent Don Beeson, who announced last fall he would not seek a fourth term.
Incumbent Precinct 2 Commissioner Kenny Howell, running for his first full term against Eddy Bransom, who did not attend the candidate forum, also said the county’s jail is in poor condition.
“We have hired a professional architect to tell us what we need to do, and I’m going to go with whatever they recommend,” Howell said, but added that he believes the county will have to renovate some existing facilities and build some new facilities to solve the problem.
Howell agreed that commissioners should not put the question to voters in a referendum. “If we put it to a vote, we’ll end up with a deteriorated jail we can’t do anything with,” he said.