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Newsmonger: Residents oppose Newell Recycling move, Push and pull over Bexar County Jail

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Vicious (re)cycle? Maria Gonzalez (right) and daughter-in-law Sandra Garcia in their front yard off New Laredo Highway, directly across from Newell Recycling's proposed facility (below).

Photo: , License: N/A

Ortiz insisted Newell is hard-pressed to leave its current home as the city ratchets up efforts to revive the urban core. "There's a push to get them out of that area. … Development is happening in every area around them," he told the Planning Commission last week. But the hardest push to move Newell out of Southtown may be coming from Newell itself. Located along the banks of the sparkling newly restored Mission Reach of the San Antonio River, its Lone Star neighbor is prime real estate. In June, the Austin-based AquaLand Development LLC announced it would buy the nearly 22-acre property — land currently owned by Newell — in order to build a $60 million development complete with 700 residential units and about 30,000 square feet of commercial space, including a hotel and beer garden. President Mark Smith has also said he'd like a pool fed by a nearby artesian well, and possibly even a microbrewery.

"[Newell] were once on the outskirts of the city, but now it's clear that they are in the center of the city," said Ortiz by phone, "including along the river where the city has made a major investment." At the city's Planning Commission last week, Ortiz said it's crunch time to get the Lone Star project moving, pressing the commission, which ultimately approved Newell's relocation, to make a decision. Ortiz also said the company spoke to nearby residents last week after the Planning Commission approved the plan, saying the groups are working together to alleviate any concerns. Saldaña had another read on the situation after meeting nearby residents Thursday night, making his disapproval, at least for the moment, crystal clear. "We don't work on a timeline that's predicated on somebody making a business deal. At this point my decision is I don't support moving a salvage yard into that area."

When reached by phone Monday AquaLand Vice President John Readyhough refused to comment on the Lone Star project or whether Newell finalizing plans to relocate its recycling facility has any bearing on how soon the developer may close on the property, which the Bexar Appraisal District values at about $3.9 million. The case was set to go before the city's Zoning Commission Tuesday, but one city hall insider indicated that due to Saldaña's resistance the case might be postponed.

Push and pull over Bexar County Jail

In the most recent push and pull between county commissioners and management at the Bexar County Jail, Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz announced last week he'll seek an independent, third-party consultant to determine whether staffing levels at the jail are adequate. How exactly this differs from County Manager David Smith's call for a jail-staffing review in February isn't clear. Ortiz, who has as of yet refused to cooperate with commissioners on a review, has said only that he'll impose certain limitations of his own.

Population at the jail has dropped over the past three years from 4,500 to around 3,700, a roughly 18 percent decline. Meanwhile the jail's funding didn't move at all until last year, when commissioners instituted a $4 million cut, a total reduction of about 5 percent, that slashed 100 positions through attrition. Commissioners chided Ortiz earlier this month for asking for $1 million of that funding back, saying resources are thin and the jail has had to ship inmates to other counties, something County Manager David Smith says shouldn't have to happen until the jail population tops 3,800 inmates. After Smith, who has consistently blamed the jail's cash crunch on piss-poor management, confirmed that the lockup's finances showed it wouldn't have been able to buy crucial supplies unless the commission approved the cash infusion, Ortiz got both the money and a verbal beating.

So who's right? While we're loath to side with a local jailer, it's notable that a staffing analysis completed by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards in late January concluded the jail was about 100 uniformed officers shy of what's needed to run the facility the size of Bexar County's. It's a finding the county rejected. Whether we blame shoddy management or inadequate funding, let's find the answer already.

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