County Approves Budget That Allocates for New Jail
$6.6 million going toward facility preconstruction
County commissioners on Tuesday took another step toward getting a new women's jail building, voting unanimously to approve a $1.09 billion county budget that includes $6.6 million in certificates of obligation for the facility's preconstruction. The meeting marked one year since criminal justice organizations learned of the county's $97 million innovative jail project and started pushing commissioners to instead focus on diversion. Unlike last year's budget hearing, which saw numerous advocates speak out against the funding, only two commented on this week's item. Chris Harris with Grassroots Leadership said he disagrees with the county's lack of "proper planning" and its usage of COs when other counties send jail projects to bond elections. "There is an understanding that this is not a popular idea in this community," Harris said. His colleague Holly Kirby noted that there is a long way to go but expressed appreciation for the county's partial funding for planning how to help a new opioid walk-in center address substance abuse. This led Commissioner Gerald Daugherty to express his extreme displeasure with the Austin Harm Reduction Coalition, which is opening the center, for clean needle illustrations on its website. The county's planning and budget staff said they plan to ask the court to approve the specific jail COs later this year or early next year.