Moving day is fast approaching for the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. Construction of the new Liberty County Law Enforcement Center on SH 146 N in Liberty is wrapping up and County Judge Jay Knight is expected to sign off on the certificate of occupancy on Sept. 28, assuming no last-minute problems arise.
Transferring all of the employees from the old sheriff’s office on Beaumont Ave. to the new building will happen slowly over the course of a few weeks, particularly since equipment for the new dispatch center has been delayed.
The law enforcement center has two buildings – a 49,000-square-foot building for the sheriff’s office and a 9,000-square-foot building for a Pct. 3 county annex. The sheriff’s office building also has offices for the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management. Inside the new annex are offices for the Pct. 3 constable, Pct. 3 justice of the peace, Texas game wardens, Texas Rangers and Texas Department of Public Safety.
Funding for construction of the $25 million project comes through the issuance of a 20-year, low-interest certificate of obligation that was approved by Commissioners Court in June 2020. The buildings were designed by Kenny Burns with Burns Architecture and built by White Construction Company.
County Judge Jay Knight said commissioners court was united on the need for a new sheriff’s office as the old one was built in 1992 and was just slightly bigger than a large residential home.
“This has been a project of necessity and love. In talking to [Pct. 2 Commissioner] Greg Arthur and [Pct. 4 Commissioner] Leon Wilson, this was one of our first focuses when we took office. We waiting to see when it was the right time to do a project of this magnitude. At the time, our financial well-being was good, and still is, so we were at the point to make a move in that direction,” Knight said. “It’s been a long time coming. We take on projects out of necessity, not as a convenience. We think these projects out long and hard before we push a button to go.”
The current sheriff’s office building was opened in 1992. By the time it was finished, the county had already outgrown the space. Today, the sheriff’s office has 107 employees – 90-plus working out of the Liberty office and the rest split among the two county annexes in Cleveland and Dayton, and at Colony Ridge Subdivision south of Plum Grove.
Shirley Jackson, administrative assistant to Sheriff Bobby Rader, has been tasked with organizing much of the move to the new building. Jackson admits feeling a little like Charlie from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”
“We won the golden ticket by getting this new building. It’s a dream come true for all the sheriff’s office employees,” she said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in all the planning.”
The new sheriff’s office has:
- a foyer area for the public with a buzzer to reach the dispatch center afterhours;
- a reception desk behind a glass window;
- an enclosed dispatch center that has its own breakroom and sleeping quarters that can be used during times of natural disasters and emergencies;
- a training room with a large drop-down projection screen, raked seating and desks that can accommodate 120 people; this room may also be used for press conferences or to open up to other agencies as a training site (each desk also will have outlets for phones, tablets and laptops);
- a backup generator to power the building in times of emergency;
- gym for LCSO employees;
- male and female locker rooms with showers;
- large rooms for evidence and weapons storage; and
- ample office space for deputies, supervisors, support staff and the sheriff.
The County was able to trim some expenses through the use of donated furniture, according to Jackson.
“The County got a good deal on the desks. Some offices will be using furniture that was entirely donated by Enterprise Products in Houston. Someone who worked for that company knows our Capt. Ken DeFoor and reached out to say they were getting rid of their executive furniture and wanted to know if we wanted it. Of course we said yes. That saved us some money, and the furniture is very nice,” Jackson said.
The bulk of the remaining furniture will come from the Texas Correctional Industry, which uses inmate labor to create quality furniture that is sold strictly to political subdivisions like Liberty County.
“They sell it to us for dimes on the dollar. It’s not stuff that comes from Ikea either. It’s good quality furniture that will last for years,” Judge Knight said.
With this project now wrapping up, county leaders are already setting their sights on a new county jail that will be built on the same 40-acre tract of land as the law enforcement center.
“My goal in the next four years is to finish projects north of SH 105 like the county annex and new facility in the Cleveland area. That area is having so much growth. Once we get those projects completed, we will be good for a few years as far as county facilities, but will need to immediately start working on a new jail,” he said. “Jails are not cheap nor are they fast to construct. You are looking at a four to five-year project. Design alone can take 18 months and construction easily another two years.”