Plans for the expansion of the Erath County Jail and the renovation of the Long Hotel for county offices are creeping forward.

Erath County Judge Tab Thompson said the flood damage to roads and involvement with FEMA slowed progress on both projects.

“The floods took attention away from these projects because that became a priority and took commissioners' time,” Thompson said. “We're not under an immediate extreme time pressure but we won't drag it out.”

Thompson said the hotel is now sporting a new white roof and all of the asbestos removal is complete. The next step will be to begin demolition work on the inside after plans are drawn.

“Nobody is working there now,” Thompson said. “We're just now in a position where we can begin moving on it.”

The Juvenile Probation Department will be housed there when the building is completed, but Thompson said that's the only county office that has been determined to occupy the new space.

Next, Thompson said he and commissioners, along with Sheriff Tommy Bryant, have narrowed down three jails for return visits before Christmas to determine the best setup for the jail expansion.

“We're still seeking knowledge in this area,” Thompson said.

Thompson said there are many facets to take into consideration to determine the best options for expansion.

“We're looking at the average jail population break down,” Thompson said. “Male to female ratios and other criteria give an indication of types and numbers of cells needed.”

Thompson said a popular building concept is pod areas that can house more prisoners with fewer jailers to supervise them. Jailers would be centrally located in a control room enclosed in glass with a view of more than one area.

“This is a system that's being used widely now but not when the jail was built in the late 1980s,” Thompson said.

Currently, Thompson said, the jail population is in good shape. Partly, due to the county's new pretrial release program.

“This program has been very successful,” Thompson said.

ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at angelia.joiner@empiretribune.com or 254-965-3124, ext. 238.