The lower gallery of the second floor courtroom of the historic courthouse in downtown Waxahachie was packed for Monday’s commissioners court meeting. Many of the attendees were there to hear the findings of the jail management evaluation and feasibility committee, which presented its report to the commissioners.

The committee conducting the evaluation was comprised of county residents, community leaders, public officials and members of the county and district attorney’s office, as well as the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office.

The two bids the county received for proposed jail management were from LaSalle Corrections and from Community Education Centers.

The committee held interviews with representatives from both companies. Committee members conducted site visits to corrections facilities operated by both companies.

“The function of the committee (was) not to express opinion whether Ellis County should enter into any agreement with site vendors for jail management. Rather it was to evaluate the two proposals that were submitted in order to aid the commissioner’s court,” County Auditor Mike Navarro said. “Should the court decide to move forward with this process out of the respondents that made a proposal, the committee feels that Community Education Centers had the better proposal using the criteria that we received and were instructed to grade.”

County Purchasing Agent Kim Gould presented the commissioners with the scores that rated each company. Community Education Centers scored a 64.81 out of 100 points and LaSalle Corrections received a 53.31.

According to its website Community Education Centers operates in 18 states including Alabama, Florida, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, Louisiana and California.

Some of the services CEC provides include in-prison treatment programs, jail/detention management, therapeutic community programs, work release programs, mental health programs, drug testing services, women’s programs and healthcare programs.

County Judge Carol Bush said the goal of this undertaking was to get the information in front of the commissioners and other relative departments to see if the possibility of using a jail management company would be feasible. Bush added that throughout the evaluation process Sheriff Johnny Brown has played a key role and it is important to have his input on this matter.

Due to a previous commitment the sheriff was unable to be in court on Monday.

Because of that, action on the issue was tabled and another meeting will be scheduled at a future date to allow Brown to provide his insight and knowledge on this subject to the court.

Many of those in attendance of the meeting expressed concerns about the possibility of transferring operations at the Wayne McCollum Detention Center from the county to a private management company.

Conrad Dalquest, who serves a detention officer, said the group of officers that work at the jail have become a family, look after each other and formed a close working relationship. Dalquest encouraged the court to vote against the proposal.

Following Dalquest, fellow detention officer James Baradzie Jr. encouraged the court to research the matter before making a decision about privatizing the jail because there been bad reports from other facilities that have been run privately.

Although no action was taken on the item to select an applicant for jail management, commissioners did approve a motion to retain Bracewell and Giuliani L.L.P. as bond council if the commissioners should decide to enter into contract negations with a private jail management company.  

Bush explained Bracewell and Giuliani would protect the county’s tax-exempt status since the jail was built with public funding. If contract negotiations were to take place, she said there would be certain securities that would have to be placed into the contract so a private company could use a public facility.

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