BROOKSVILLE — Although it has been a well-known feature ever since the sheriff took over the Hernando County Detention Center from a private company more than two years ago, no one will really miss the hallway at the jail known as "Canal Street.''
Named for the constant state of dampness inside, the hallway leading from central corridors of the jail to one of the inmate pods was often lined with sandbags.
Now it is dry, and jail officials hope that it will stay that way.
On Tuesday, the County Commission will consider approving the final $7,000 payment to Garland/DBS Inc., the Cleveland contractor hired to, at long last, patch and seal the numerous roof leaks throughout the detention center.
The total contract amount was $70,114.
Water intrusion has been one of the major problems in the building. At times, water would run down electric fixtures. It caused damage to security windows and metal fittings and doors. In the jail's security room, at one point, stained ceiling tile was removed, and water could be seen running down through conduit and insulation into buckets on the floor.
That should be "99 percent fixed," said Lt. Shaun Klucznik, who commands the operations division of the detention center.
The roof is the latest of the deficiencies fixed at the jail since the sheriff took over the operation. It was photographs of the poorly maintained and damaged facility that ignited serious discussion among county commissioners about the need for a change.
Another of the trouble spots, an outdoor inmate yard, caused a different type of water intrusion. The concrete foundation of the yard was pitched in such a way that when it rained, the water drained into the inmate housing pod.
Klucznik said that was repaired by removing the foundation with a jackhammer and replacing it with properly pitched base that flowed into a central drain. He said the real problem had been that the original jail design had a roof over the yard, but the roof was removed to save money during construction.
When county commissioners decided to change the operation of the jail, they also agreed to commit $3 million for repairs. The largest share of that amount, $1.5 million, was promised for a new free-standing infirmary under construction on the grounds.
Set for a February opening, the infirmary will have 25 beds to start, with a capacity of 36. That is compared to the current nine-bed infirmary on the second floor of the jail. In addition, it will have two isolation beds and a padded seclusion cell for inmates on suicide watch or who might try to harm themselves.
When the 4,500-square-foot building opens, the jail plans to convert the old infirmary to housing for juvenile inmates being adjudicated as adults.
Since juveniles must be housed separately from the adult population, the jail currently has to shut down an entire pod of 24 bunks just for just one juvenile inmate.
Jail officials are hoping that the new unit might also make the Hernando facility more attractive to house federal prisoners, which makes the jail extra money.
Also planned in the coming months is a move of the video visitation center to a double-wide trailer set up in front of the detention center. When completed, the center will mean visitors don't need to come inside the jail to have a video visit with an inmate. Once that is up and running, the existing visitation room will be converted to a training room, according to Klucznik.
Earlier this month, Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced that the detention center passed its second Florida Model Jail Standards inspection.
The standards are the minimum goals jails across Florida must meet to ensure that the constitutional rights of those incarcerated are upheld.
"Although we were confident that our staff at the jail had made significant improvements to the facility over the last year, it was gratifying to personally hear from experts outside the organization that we are well above FMJ standards," Nienhuis was quoted as saying in a news release.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.