Hernando Commissioner Jeff Stabins is right to be frustrated. The Hernando County jail, built for $8 million in 1988, and equipped with a 300-bed expansion five years ago for $11 million, supposedly now needs nearly $15 million in repairs and upgrades. It's an exorbitant number equal to five times the amount budgeted for repairs. It's also an unrealistic figure given the county's spending constraints.
The dollar figure is the guesstimate included in a preliminary engineering report on the physical shortcomings of the jail that is being run by the Hernando Sheriff's Office after 22 years of private operations by Corrections Corporation of America, CCA. And we must emphasize the "guess'' in guesstimate because the draft report hadn't been released publicly nor had it been viewed by commissioners prior to Tuesday's board meeting.
Unfortunately, Stabins let his frustration at the report's pricey contents be overwhelmed by his personal indignation at not getting a copy of the document. It is understood Stabins wants better information. His own methodology, however, needs work as attested by his behavior Tuesday. He badgered (cross-examined?) the county's procurement consultant Lisa Hammond for not making the report available, asking her at one point if she would testify under oath as to what day she received the document.
Hammond originally said she received the document Friday, but clarified and said she didn't look at it until Friday even though she received a copy Thursday afternoon. Release was delayed by the county attorney and Sheriff's Office in order to redact sensitive security information.
That did little to placate Stabins, even after Hammond apologized if commissioners felt their authority had been usurped. His perceived conspiracies are far-fetched and do little to address the problem at hand — a jail in a disputed state of disrepair.
It also marked the second time in a week that Stabins sought to blame the staff for shortcomings on capital projects. Last week, Stabins asked County Administrator David Hamilton if he would resign if the Hernando Beach channel dredge did not advance as commissioners pondered firing their dredge contractor.
Delays and unplanned, escalating expenses frustrate all of the commissioners, but only Stabins is trying to find scapegoats. The public is better served by leaders who try to find solutions.