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Sheriff releases plans for new jail

The Citrus Sheriff's Office released a preliminary sketch Thursday of the layout for the new jail planned for downtown Inverness. According to the sketch, prepared by the Tallahassee architectural firm Jim Roberson & Associates, the jail would include a mix of one-, two-, three- and four-story sections. The highest part would be set farthest away from Cooter Pond.

Parking lots would line N Park Avenue and Dampier Street, and Mill Avenue would have to be closed to accommodate the exercise yard for inmates. A solid wall would surround the exercise yard, so the public would not routinely see the inmates.

The county expects to spend about $10.5-million on the 400-bed jail. That figure includes about $720,000 that will be needed to acquire property. An estimated 12 homes may need to be purchased.

Proponents of the downtown site had argued that it would be more expensive to build elsewhere because a new courtroom would have to be built to limit travel to Inverness.

But according to an information sheet prepared by the Sheriff's Office, the new jail will include a courtroom and first-appearance hearing room, "thus enhancing security by eliminating the need for transporting high-risk prisoners outside the facility for trial or first appearances."

In addition, the compound would include space for food and medical

services. The Sheriff's Office estimated that the county would save $500,000 a year by building the jail near the existing facility because food and medical services would not have to be duplicated in another location.

The inmates would be housed in the four-story area, which, according to Sheriff's Maj. Buddy Mortimer, would be 40 feet high or shorter. Mortimer said it was his understanding that the County Commission had voted that the building could be no higher than the new courthouse, which is 40 feet tall.

But Assistant County Administrator Steve Wylie said the commission had limited the building to four stories but had not set a specific height requirement. He said it was his understanding the jail would be about 48 feet tall at its highest point.

The county would need a building height variance from the city if it intends to build higher than 40 feet.

Sheriff Charles Dean has said he would like an aerial walkway built over N Park Avenue to connect the new jail with the existing jail. The walkway was not included on the sketch, but Mortimer said the idea still is being considered.

The Inverness City Council plans to hold a workshop at 5 p.m. Tuesday to review the jail plans. If the jail is to be built downtown, the city would have to approve a zoning change, an amendment to its comprehensive plan, a street closing and a variance.

The county is under a court order to have a new jail built by October 1991 to ease overcrowding in the current jail in downtown Inverness.