Jail Expansion Groundbreaking

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office celebrates a groundbreaking on Monday. It's the first step in a jail expansion project, that's been in the works for more than a year.

The expansion is not something supported by county voters. It was turned down in the November election. But, county commissioners decided to go ahead with the project anyway.

A citizens group called Together for Effective Alternatives, in an effort to stop the process, filed a petition. As part of the dispute, TEA asked that commissioners Chuck Brown and Tom Huffman be recalled. But, the petition failed back in March.

Just after the petition failed, ground was broken on a new 12,000 square foot evidence facility. Initially, it will be used as a minimum security unit, until the expansion is complete.

On Monday afternoon, workers broke ground on a new tower addition on east Las Vegas. It will be located just north of the current towers.

After all is said and done, the expansion will cost nearly $40 million over time. Because the measure was not approved by voters, and neither was a tax increase, the county is using existing revenue to pay for it.

El Paso County says the expansion is designed to increase the safety of the community, the deputies who work at the facility, and the inmates.
County Commissioner Wayne Williams says it's necessary, no matter what the cost, or where the funding comes from.

The expansion should be completed by January of 2005. It will house more than 800 minimum security inmates.