Bids will be accepted; can cost no more than $37K

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

This week, County Commissioners approved advertising for bids on a new federal transport van for the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department.

The van will replace the older transport vehicle currently in use that has more than 150,000 miles on it.

That van will be turned over to the JWC SWAT team for its use. The team currently uses an older transport van with higher mileage, which will be sold by the county.

Sheriff Oscar Lopez said the request was made of the court because the department doesn't have the funds at this time to purchase a van.

"The money is coming in from the marshals, but it goes back in to the general fund," Lopez said.

From June 2006 through May 2007, Sheriff's officials told the court they had received a total of $525,547 in reimbursements from the United States Marshal Office for the federal inmates.

This amount includes reimbursements for care and custody of those inmates at $484,372. There was also $16,717 reimbursed for transportation mileage to and from federal court and $24,456 for transportation man hours.

The court had set aside $42,000 in the budget this year for transportation, which has already been used for the lease purchases of department cruisers. Lopez said the department has three vans now that are nearing 150,000 miles, and that by January, they could be as high as 200,000 miles.

"The van needs replacement," Lopez said. "We don't want to wait until it breaks down."

County officials said the bid limit would be $37,000. Lopez said last time a new van cost the county $32,000.

The Jim Wells County Jail currently has 23 federal inmates. At maximum capacity, it can hold 40 federal inmates. Lopez said that on an average day, the jail holds 80 to 85 prisoners.

"The jail population is going up," Lopez said. "We built it for 90 inmates and we're getting up there."