TEXARKANA -- A special sales-tax election will be held Feb. 8 to expand the Miller County jail.
The Miller County Quorum Court set the date during a meeting on Monday night. The vote was 10-1.
In previous discussions, a quarter-cent sales tax has been considered, but an official sales tax rate still has yet to be agreed upon.
County officials said that between now and February they will hold a series of public sessions about the proposal.
The plan calls for spending about $7 million to add 144 beds to the 285-bed jail. About $3.7 million of $4.2 million the county received earlier this year in American Rescue Fund Act money will take care of the expansion's first phase. That phase will install about 48 of the 60 beds that officials consider are needed.
Voters will decide on the second phase, aimed at completing the proposed 144-bed addition. The election itself will cost about $19,000. If voters approve the sales tax, as much as $1.6 million annually could be generated to expand the jail to house about 500 inmates.
Besides a general need for more inmate space, the pandemic's social-distancing requirements are adding to the pressure for expansion. Also, the jail is required to separate prisoners by classification, such as high risk, moderate risk and low risk, in relation to escape attempts and violence.
Miller County Chief Deputy Mark Lewis said the jail has about 320 to 340 inmates in the space set up to hold 285.
"Even without the covid-19 issue, we are now completely out of of space and it's creating a hardship," Lewis said.