It has been just more than 2 years since the renovations to the McKenzie Jail Annex began and construction is finally wrapping up.
The addition will provide 144 more beds to the Annex, an all-male facility.
Plans for this project began about 4 years ago with former County Judge Loyd Neal and former Sheriff Jim Kaelin seeking a way to ease jail overcrowding and stay in compliance with the state.
Once the renovations are complete, more inmates will be able to be taken in which means more staff will be needed.
Last year, KRIS6 News reported on a shortage of jailers within Nueces County which was brought to light by the President of the Nueces County Sheriff’s Office Association Sgt. Joe A. Gonzalez.
“The bottom line is we need to keep our people here in Nueces County safe and that’s a big issue for us, public safety,” said Gonzalez, a 10-year veteran with the department.
He says pay continues to be a key factor in hiring and keeping staff, which he adds has been a work in progress with County Commissioners.
“The Commissioners are definitely working with that and I appreciate they sit down with us and talk to us, that means a lot to us just somebody hearing you out,” Gonzalez added.
Employees received a 15 percent increase over a 4-year span and next month they’ll be up for collective bargaining with Nueces County.
Meanwhile, Nueces County Sheriff John Hooper says staffing has been his main goal and focus since he started the position 4 months ago. He says he’s currently working with administration to come up with innovative recruiting techniques and there will be a big push to fill those vacancies as soon as possible.
“We’ve always tried to go above and beyond for the safety of the officers and the safety of the inmates and ultimately the safety of the citizens in the County,” Hooper said. “It’s our job to maintain a secure and safe facility here and we will do that, we’ll continue to do that.”
Hooper said construction is expected to be completed later this summer.
He also said the jail inmate occupancy has been decreasing over the last few months, crediting the courts which he says have been working with his office when it comes to inmates bonding out.