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San Patricio Co. Jail's upgrades a point of pride

Posted at 9:25 PM, Feb 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-22 00:01:37-05

SINTON, Texas — San Patricio Co. Sheriff Oscar Rivera has been cutting costs on projects everywhere he can.

Last week, we told you about how the department saved enough to buy a new patrol unit by refitting its vehicles itself.

But it was the work Rivera and his deputies put in at the San Patricio Co. Jail that saved the sheriff's department and taxpayers the most money.

In 2017, the jail was at risk of being shut down by The Texas Jail Commission on Standards due to its deteriorated conditions. Rivera, who was worked at the facility for more than 30 years, said he wasn't going to let that happen on his watch.

"You ask any sheriff in the state, and ask them what their worst nightmare is, and they're going to tell you: "the jail,' " he said.

But getting started wasn't easy.

"You have to close down a section for at least two or three weeks just to get it done," Rivera said.

That means moving inmates, cutting out any rusted steel, pulling out fixtures, toilets, doors, sand blasting, welding, painting, and then reinstalling everything in working order.

As estimates surpassed $2 million, Rivera figured he -- along with his deputies and inmates -- would do the work themselves, which cut the project cost in half.

"So this device here was a 35-year (old) box and it's brand new now," Rivera said. "It maintains all the fire alarms for the system here."

Also new is the water heater and the air-conditioning units, as well as light fixtures that are energy-efficient. As repairs were made, new technology was used, something everyone has noticed.

Rivera and his team are proud of the work they've done. In January, the jail passed all he jail commission's inspections.

"I have a little more sense of pride because you can walk in and say 'I saw what it looked like before and now I know what it looks like now,' " said San Patricio Co. Jail Administrator Maj. Everardo Balderas.

Rivera is now looking for other ways to save his department and the county more money.