Baytown-West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation | 1300 Rollingbrook Dr., Suite 610 | Baytown, TX 77521 | 281.420.2961 |

Fast-growing Chambers County tackles boom

April 4, 2023

The average income for the 29,900 households in Chambers County is $87,584 and the top occupations are construction (7,021) and manufacturing (4,543) with about half the population under 35 years of age.

Those are some of the numbers reported by County Judge Jimmy Sylvia, the elected leader of Chambers County government, at a recent luncheon meeting of the West Chambers County Chamber of Commerce at Eagle Pointe.

Chambers is one of the state’s fastest growing counties, with a tax base of $5.6 billion in 2010 more than doubling to $13.7 billion in 2022.

Sixty-six percent of that tax base is funded by business and industry while 34% comes from taxes paid on residential property.

Another highlight of Judge Sylvia’s presentation was that the county’s $96.5 million 2023 budget was a 6.2% decrease from the previous year.

“Something we’re really proud of,” the judge said, “the tax rate decreased a nickel for 2023,” from 53.95 cents per $100 valuation to 49.16 cents per $100.

While the county budget is less, it includes a 10% increase in safety and law enforcement funding.

As a percent of the total budget, safety and law enforcement makes up the largest piece of the pie at 32%, with general government at 22%, then justice at nearly 20%, Judge Sylvia said.

Priority projects for the county are topped by the county courthouse in Anahuac.

It was opened in 1936, when Chambers County had a population of 5,000. It has grown to a 2023 population of 50,000.

“So, needless to say, we have outgrown our courthouse,” the judge said.

“We are looking at building a Justice Center next to the county courthouse. As the county grows and we grow, and law enforcement grows, our justice system has to grow to take care of the folks being arrested.

“The new courthouse will have four courtrooms, along with ancillary offices of the district clerk, the district attorney, the county attorney and the county clerk’s office.

“Also, on the north end will be a Law Enforcement Center.”

Judge Sylvia reported the current Chambers County jail was built in 1984 and had 76 beds.

“Our population was 20,000 at that time. Our current population is right at 50,000 folks and our current jail capacity is 148,” he said.

Statewide, counties with unused jail capacity routinely rent space to counties with overflow jail populations.

“We’re shipping folks out,” the judge said. “We have to. Our average monthly (jail) census is at 236. We do everything we can to get people in and out of jail. But our judges do set high bonds. We’re not Harris County.”

The several hundred diners, Chamber members and their guests, applauded heartily then.

In Harris County, the state’s largest county with a county seat of Houston, the nation’s third-largest city, judges in the recent past set pretrial bonds low for criminal defendants as a solution to jail overcrowding.

But the plan backfired when accused murderers were accused of having committed more serious crimes while out on bail.

Females, Judge Sylvia said, “are the fastest growing group of inmates we’ve got. In 1984, they built 16 beds for females. We still have 16 beds. We’ve got a whole lot of females that we’re sending out to a lot of different (jails) in the state, and we just got a contract with Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, because there’s no more room in Texas.”

While planning for the Justice Center drags on, Chambers County is currently building a temporary women’s jail dorm that will house an additional 28 inmates.

“We’ll use this temporary facility until we get our new jail built,” Judge Sylvia said.

Closing his presentation on a more cheery note, the judge lauded the completion of the Westside Complex, three structures in Cove that opened last month.

“We are very, very proud of it,” he said.

One is a covered box site to which residents can bring their trash and debris. A second is a road and bridge yard and the final structure is a community center that can double as a storm shelter if needed.

The Cove site also includes a baseball-softball installation that includes four fields. City-county partnerships with Mont Belvieu include a new soccer complex and pickleball courts.

By Dave Rogers, Baytown Sun