Thursday, February 25, 2016

Two Huntsville TDCJ Units Maybe Relocated

By Lance Lowry
February 25, 2016



Huntsville, Texas - On December 4, 2015 President Obama signed the five-year $305 billion federal transportation bill into law allowing for the funding of the proposed Gulf Coast Strategic Highway System, also known as Interstate 14.  The new Interstate will connect Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas and Fort Polk in Leesville, Louisiana using mostly US 190 existing easement.
 
House Resolution 22 stipulates: "The Central Texas Corridor commencing at the logical terminus of Interstate Route 10, generally following portions of United States Route 190 eastward, passing in the vicinity Fort Hood, Killeen, Belton, Temple, Bryan, College Station, Huntsville, Livingston, and Woodville, to the logical terminus of Texas Highway 63 at the Sabine River Bridge at Burrs Crossing."
 
The Holliday Unit is a 2,128 bed prison facility designed as a 20 year temporary structure built in 1994.  The facility has outlived its life expectancy.  The Wynne Unit is outdated with some of the structure from 1883 still in use.   

Both prison facilities sit on 1,396 acres that is prime real estate needed for Huntsville to grow and would make an ideal interchange for Interstate 45 and Interstate 14.  A planned housing subdivision could also be stipulated from the sale of the Wynne Unit property, which has a typography that is ideal for a housing subdivision that could easily tie into existing sewer infrastructure without the need for multi-million dollar lift stations

One factor that keeps TDCJ units under staffed in Huntsville is the lack of affordable housing and high property taxes.  Poor education is another factor that keeps many from relocating to Huntsville, as the  school district is a poor district as the result of lacking taxable infrastructure. 

Inhibited growth of Huntsville is the result of most large tracts of land being owned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, and the U.S. Forest Service.  Local taxing authorities are further impacted by the stunned growth and higher need for services as the population rises. 


The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and their employees would greatly benefit by relocating these units to a more ideal location.  Smaller and more modern facilities could be built using the Federal Highway Fund as a result of Interstate 14 displacing these facilities.  A larger tax base in Huntsville would result in lower taxes and more funding for the local education system.    



The Wynne Unit / Holliday property is the most ideal location for the planned Interstate 14 and Interstate 45 Interchange as it would not displace that many private land owners and would positively impact the community.  This route would ensure easier access to the College Station and Lake Livingston area.  TDCJ would be positively impacted with funding to replace old and outdated infrastructure. 

Several smaller new prisons could also be built closer to where some TDCJ employees commute from (I.E. Montgomery County and North Harris County).  Industries and warehousing could be modernized and relocated to other TDCJ Huntsville prisons such as the Byrd Unit, ensuring easy interstate access. 

Plans for relocating these prisons could began as soon as the next 2017 legislative session.  The project could be projected to occur over the next 10-15 years, but transfer of some property could occur next legislative session.  No job losses are expected from relocating these units. 

25 comments:

  1. Maybe? Maybe not? May be?

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    1. No job loses? So jobs win?

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    2. With a 24-26% turnover rate, job losses will not be an issue. TDCJ needs to downsize and pay their employees more with the savings.

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    3. No job losses occurred as a result of the closure of the Central Unit. They should keep a plaque or old section of the building to remind us of the history, but the rest of the prison needs to go. Wynne Unit is a dump. It's dangerous with lots of hidden spots. Getting rid of it is a great plan.

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  2. Too many people responding must not think about the production (ie:agriculture /livestock ) side of the equation. The land would not be replaced. TDC was, years ago, and could be again a self sustained entity. Eroding production capacity is not the answer. The sale of the Central Unit did not benefit TDC as the proceeds went into the General Revenue Fund, NOT to TDC. This sale would be no different.

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    1. With major technological advances in agriculture, there is no longer a need for large amounts of cheap labor to pick cotton and plow fields. There is not a single prison farm in the U.S. that is self sustainable anymore. Prisons in Texas are funded through the general revenue fund under Article V of the appropriations bill!!!!!!

      The sale of the Central Unit greatly benefited TDCJ by adding much needed revenue to the general revenue fund and offset education funds from being pulled out of the General Revenue Fund which funds TDCJ Article V appropriations. The sale of land in Sugarland and Angleton added additional revenue which help grow the Texas economy.

      I'm sure many TDCJ employees romanticize amount the good 'ol days in the fields on horses, but the horse pasture which sits on millions of dollars of TAXABLE land needs to go. Money is need to educate kids in Huntsville and without adequate taxable sources, TDCJ employees who own homes in the Huntsville area will continue to be overcharged on property taxes compared to other areas of the state.

      The horse field needs to go!!!!!! I have no ideal where you figured a horse field was more productive than adding millions of dollars to our tax rolls and General Revenue Fund. TDCJ employees need a pay raise and money doesn't grow in HORSE FIELDS!!!!!

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    2. Funny, the Central Unit has not sold and there has been no revenue.....guess the rest of these posts are about as erroneous....just sayin'

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    3. Most of the Central Unit has been sold. Central Unit was over 3,700 acres covering an area beyond US 59. Now there are housing subdivisions where most on the unit property was located. It's erroneous to assume land has not been sold as there is only 238 acres left to be sold out of the 3,700 tract.

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  3. and taxes in Huntsville will not go down. trust in that. plus as stated above, the sale of the land will go to profit the general revenue fund, not directly to TDCJ for improved training, staffing, housing for staff etc. what about all the staff housed at the WY properties?? where will they go.

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    1. Do you really think tax money is growing in that HORSE FIELD at the Wynne Unit????

      Have you seen the housing at the Wynne Unit? The houses are almost worse than the unit. The General Revenue Fund is what pays TDCJ employees their salaries. With several billion dollars being slatted for Walker County's IH 14 expansion, I'm sure TDCJ could build really nice houses for those wardens and directors over the next 15 years elsewhere.

      Its time to get rid of the HORSE FIELD and get a real source of revenue to help out the citizens of Walker County and their kids who have to attend one of the poorest school districts in the state.

      FYI the General Revenue Fund also funds training, staffing, and housing for the staff.

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    2. There is no field force at the Wynne, nor any other state prison, the small amount they call a field force just delays the operation of the unit, they have no purpose, just trying to keep the old days of TDC alive. they are more of a risk to the community than a benefit to the system. You have officers in the field that loose their guns out of their holsters, the inmate finds it and returns it. Others have lost their bullets. Then we had an Officer killed in the field force as two convicts escaped, she was ran down on her horse. Thank you W.W. Justice.

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  4. Having the horse fields are an unnecessary liability for everyone. After watching a fellow employee be killed during an escape attempt from these fields, I thought TDCJ would realize how stupid this idea is. Why on earth would you put the worst behaved offenders outside the fence? The staff assaultive and escape risk G4 custody offenders should NEVER be allowed outside the gates. TDCJ states that they are under the most strict supervision while being monitored by armed supervision. How can one person with six bullets possibly stop a 30 offender squad? I hope they get their heads out if their asses and revise this inadequate and completely ridiculous policy. Dont they realize that there are 5 elementary schools, a middle school, a junior high, and a high school within a 2 mile radius? I hope someone with the ability to make change reads this post.

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  5. You know, I can see the benefits of the sale of these properties. I don't see it happening anytime soon. It's wishful thinking at best, for now. The shutdown of Central was a lot easier in comparison. It's a smaller unit, less land, with fewer employee's to relocate.

    To say the highway interchange will go where you think it will go is pure speculation. Could it go there? Maybe, if the stars align just right, and everything happens as you believe it could happen. I don't see it happening, not in the next few years anyway. Too much would have to be planned out, mapped out, and built, to make it happen as you say it could. Those two units do a lot more than just house inmates and horses.

    While I agree in the long run the sale, and relocation of the two units along with their staff and essential functions, could be beneficial to TDCJ I don't see it happening in the near future. You're talking about a massive undertaking that takes a lot of planning, and will require other facilities be built to replace the capabilities lost in the sale. Good luck with your speculation, but I don't see this happening soon.

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    1. Planning an interstate doesn't occur over night. To think this route is wishful thinking or just random speculation is not true.

      There are several things you need to understand about this project and the layout of Huntsville:

      1. It's unlikely TxDOT will place IH 14 going through the middle of Huntsville (via US 190) due to the easement being 400-500 feet wide and the fact hundreds of building would be destroyed, grossly displaying the city.

      2. IH 14 will not go to the south of Huntsville due to the environmental impact on the Sam Houston National Forest.

      3. Flood plain exist north of FM 2821 and more overpasses would be required the further north the road is built.

      4. An interchange between IH 45 and IH 14 will require a sizable amount of land.

      5. Developers with political connections have bought up sizable tracts of land around the area of this possible route using assumed names.

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  6. Do you have an accurate map of the proposed I-14? I checked with TX DOT and they don't have one. How do you know what the exact propose route is? Taking the Holiday unit makes no sense since the proposed route follows 190 from the west and joins I-45 at Madisonville and splits and goes east somewhere north of Huntsville.

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    1. House Resolution 22 stipulates: "The Central Texas Corridor commencing at the logical terminus of Interstate Route 10, generally following portions of United States Route 190 eastward, passing in the vicinity Fort Hood, Killeen, Belton, Temple, Bryan, College Station, Huntsville, Livingston, and Woodville, to the logical terminus of Texas Highway 63 at the Sabine River Bridge at Burrs Crossing."

      You are correct there is no OFFICIAL map drawn yet, however the resolution doesn't state the "route follows 190." The resolution states the route will "generally following portions of United States Route 190 eastward."

      TXDOT will have to consider where they will place the easement as to disrupt as few private property owners as possible. They will be limited on building IH 14 south of Huntsville due to the environmental impact on the Sam Houston National Forest. A route using US 190 through the City of Huntsville with the 500 foot wide easement would destroy hundreds of building and grossly displace the town. Placing the route further north of FM 2821 will result in highway being built on a flood plain and additional overpasses being built.

      IH 14 will not occur overnight and will be in the planning phase for the next 10-15 years. Most TDCJ employees will be retired by this time.

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  7. I know this unit is not really relevant to this but many units are old and falling apart. Many have water unfit to drink. So even state run units need to be looked at closer for safety reasons.

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    1. Hobby unit has brown drinking water.

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  8. All I can say is I worked for TDCJ from 1982 till 1997 and was assigned to several units. The Units that had Field Squads ( Horse Field...... are you kidding me ) I can tell you that after a day of working in the fields, the poor inmates did not have the energy to abuse the officers like they do now.

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  9. This project was shelved months ago. Old news. TXDOT studied the I-14 Gulf Coast Strategic Highway and concluded that there was no justification to build a full freeway along US 190 through Texas because of low traffic projections to 2040. LaDOTD and MDOT both also projected traffic level to low to justify the highways. Although the Congress created the Interstate corridor, they never send any federal funds to build it. The low traffic and lack of possible funds are the reasons Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia dropped support for I-14. Finally, the AASHTO rejected TXDOT application to designate even the existing road in Killeen since they don't see this road ever being built within the next 25 years.

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  10. Go back to quarter law and send our love ones home to be a good father, son, neighbor and citizen with the reform they have been getting while in prison.

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  11. Go back to quarter law and send our love ones home to be a good father, son, neighbor and citizen with the reform they have been getting while in prison.

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  12. I really appreciate your article. the post has excellent tips which are useful. this post is good in regards of both knowledge as well as information.transfer and relocation

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