When voters approved the expansion of the Kerr County jail, they were looking toward the future, and Sheriff W.R. “Rusty” Hierholzer is being a good steward of that vision by working to minimize the cost of maintaining the jail.
The current jail is bigger than what the county needs at the moment, but Hierholzer has smartly moved to take on overflow inmate populations from counties across Texas. The move is on track to earn $1 million this year in revenue from fees to house those prisoners.
Recently, Kerr County took on a number of prisoners from the Odessa area in West Texas. Hierholzer has been candid in his assessment that, although the program does increase some jail expenses, the benefit outweighs the costs.
In fact, the county’s auditor submitted information indicating that the jail income is about 2.7 cents per $100 of assessed value. That doesn’t seem like much, but in a county with a significant deficit, this is a pragmatic approach to helping combat costs. If it wasn’t in place, the jail’s maintenance costs would probably not justify the staffing levels or operation costs that voters approved.
Hierholzer, who is headed for retirement, has served the county as a thoughtful and conservative manager of the department, and this is another example of his leadership, which will be missed.
True to the nature of this project, Hierholzer is the first to admit this is only a temporary solution because, inevitably — and somewhat unfortunately — the county’s jail population will probably increase to the point that all available beds are used. The county is growing, and there are still issues with drugs and crime that will continue to nag us.
However, for now, we can thank the sheriff for a pragmatic approach that is easing the burden on taxpayers.