BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Jail is not falling apart, as has been described by some, according to a report by an engineer hired by the county's insurance company.
There are no structural flaws and much of what needs to be done will involve patches and seals instead of millions of dollars in major repairs.
"It is the opinion of the engineer based on the observations as recorded that the subject structure did not represent a dangerous or unsafe structural condition,'' according to the report released by Bracken Engineering of Tampa.
County officials have been scrambling to gather information about problems at the jail since Sheriff Richard Nugent brought pictures to the County Commission that showed cracks in walls and ceilings, rusting doors, water damage and clouded windows.
After his review of the report, Nugent said in an e-mail, "This report is a good starting point, which is what it was intended for.
"It was coordinated by the county's insurance carrier and should not be considered a complete and final assessment of the facility condition or extent of necessary improvements to bring the building up to acceptable standards.''
Commissioners have agreed to set aside $3 million for Nugent to fix the problems as he prepares to take over jail operations from Corrections Corporation of America in late August.
Commissioner Jeff Stabins, who urged that money not be given out until a professional assessment had been done, said the report was good news.
"This is the first time we've had a professional take a look at it,'' he said. "It looks like everyone succumbed to the sheriff's slide show and we gave him $3 million he didn't need. So, we'll just take it back.
"A little paint and spackle and we should be good to go,'' Stabins said.
He even started to price gallons of sealant paint and rust repair because "that can take care of a lot of the problem.''
It is important now to figure out how much CCA is responsible for and how much is the county's problem and move forward with the work, he said.
"This isn't the Hilton; it's the county jail,'' Stabins said. "It's structurally sound and safe. It doesn't have to be lavish. It shouldn't be lavish.''
Commissioner Jim Adkins was also pleased with the report and that "it wasn't as bad as I thought it could be.''
The big-ticket items recommended by the engineer are to demolish the existing floor slab in the courtyard because it was built to slope away from the drain and floods a core area of the jail and to make major roof repairs. Still, Adkins said he was confident that the work won't eat up all the reserve money set aside.
He said he is pushing to have the county contact the contractor who built the courtyard slab and have that company repair it. He also said that inmate crews could accomplish many of the other cosmetic sealing and painting duties the report notes are needed.
Nugent said the word that there are no significant structural problems "is welcome news to everyone.''
He pointed out that the report notes that the "aged roof membrane has exceeded its service life" and would need to be redone and cautioned that some other issues remain to be explored.
"The scope of the report was narrowly focused, as intended. It did not address other facility issues such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, security, etc.,'' Nugent said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.