Liberty County commissioners approve contract for new law enforcement center

This is the design for the new Liberty County Sheriff's Office, which is part of a new law enforcement center. The building is roughly 49,000 square feet and will be erected by White Construction Company.

In a quick, early-morning meeting on Friday, Liberty County commissioners okayed a contract authorizing White Construction Company, which has offices in Houston and Austin, to be the construction manager at risk for a new law enforcement center. The total cost of construction of the two buildings that make up the law enforcement center is estimated at just under $20 million. With soft costs for design and architecture, furnishings and equipment added in, the amount budgeted for the project is $25 million.

The new law enforcement center is funded by certificates of obligation that commissioners approved in June 2020. It was designed by Burns Architecture, LLC, which has designed more than 60 jails and law enforcement centers across Texas, including Crockett, Andrews, Deaf Smith, Lampasas and Tom Green counties.

Located on a 39-acre tract of land just north of Liberty on SH 146, Liberty County’s new law enforcement center will be two buildings – one housing the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office and the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management, and the other being used for offices for the Texas Ranger, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Pct. 3 Constable and Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace.

Both buildings will be constructed of brick and masonry, pitched metal roofs and metal gutter systems. The sheriff’s office and EOC headquarters will have a double-roof design that should withstand the force of a major hurricane, a must-have for emergency operations centers along the Texas Gulf Coast.

“With the double roof, if one roof gets ripped off in a storm, there will be another protecting it,” said Architect Kenny Burns. “It is basically a concrete box inside a concrete box. It is built with protection against extreme weather.”

Back-up generators are part of the construction costs, he added.

The sheriff’s office will be positioned on the property so that it faces southward. The annex next to it will be facing northward. The design also factors in the future needs for a new county jail on the same property.

The sheriff’s office/OEM building will be roughly 49,000 square feet and the annex will be 9,000 square feet. Construction is expected to begin on April 1 with a formal groundbreaking ceremony held sometime around that date. County Judge Jay Knight, Pct. 1 Commissioner Bruce Karbowski and Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur briefly discussed after the meeting that they would like to see current sheriff Bobby Rader and former sheriffs Henry Patterson and O.J. Stewart attending the event. Arthur also is a former sheriff for Liberty County.

With good weather and no major disasters, construction of the law enforcement center should wrap up by spring to summer of 2022, Burns said.

After the commissioners court meeting, County Judge Jay Knight suggested that a new jail will be on the horizon once the law enforcement center is finished.

“It might come right behind this,” Knight said.

According to Knight, Liberty County currently has around 60 inmates that are being housed outside the county due to the County Jail being at capacity, for which the county pays a hefty price.

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