Local city faces financial crisis after jail closes

Chris Rogers reports.

BARTLETT - The city of Bartlett is struggling to make up for a massive budget shortfall after the state shut down the jail.

Bartlett’s jail isn’t the only one that has shut its doors over the last year.

Two weeks ago, the Bartlett State Jail housed more than 1,000 inmates. Now the facility sits vacant and silent.

It is one of four lockups across the state of Texas that have been shut down this year alone, the result of shrinking inmate population.

According to Jason Clark with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in 2010, the inmate population was about 156,000 and in 2017, it is close to 146,000.

“And so were able to absorb that prison capacity without affecting public safety,” Clark said.

By shutting down the Bartlett facility, the state is saving upwards of $24 million, but for the city itself, the jail provided a much needed revenue stream. Mayor James Grant said shutting its doors meant the city took a big hit.

“It’s a pretty sizeable amount,” Grant said. “You’re talking about $800,000 annually in revenue.”

The jail made up for about a third of the city’s budget, and now the mayor and the city council is scrambling for ways to make up for that shortfall.

“Mainly it’s going to come in utilities, right now Bartlett has some of the lowest utilities in the state,” Grant said. “due largely in part to the face that jails sitting over there, but now with that gone obviously somebody’s gotta pay for it.”

The problem is the city can’t turn the facility into a source of income, at least not yet. That is due to the state keeping the facility on the backburner in case those incarceration numbers start to go up again.

Clarke said that the facility will be mothballed.

“If for some reason our population numbers go back up and there’s a need for that facility, we would be able to ramp that back up,” Clarke said.

For city officials, it is a frustrating standstill as they would like to utilize the area to bring money back into Bartlett.

“We need to find somebody commercial that’s willing to invest a considerable amount of money and turn this into most likely an industrial complex,” Mayor Grant said.

But for now, the facility will remain deserted, and a city will continue to search for a means to replace what it lost when the jail closed their doors.

Four lockups will be closed and when it is all said and done, the lone star state will have shuttered eight prisons in just six years.

Good news for Texas’s crackdown on crime but not so good for small communities like Bartlett.

© 2017 KCEN-TV


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