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Plans for Pasco jail expansion move forward

Design firm hired to engineer, oversee construction for 1,000-inmate expansion

NEW PORT RICHEY — With too many inmates and not enough space in the Pasco County Detention Center, county officials have had to farm detainees out to other jurisdictions for several years.

Work to remedy that got an important jump start Tuesday.

The Pasco County Commission unanimously approved the design firm of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, Inc. to provide architectural and engineering work as well as construction administration on the jail expansion project. The total payout to the company, which is headquartered in St. Louis, will not exceed $8.37 million.

According to the county’s schedule, design will begin immediately, with construction expected to start in the fall of 2021 and conclude in the summer of 2024.

Several commissioners expressed concern that the design company was slated for four years of work. But Andrew Baxter, facilities management director, explained that the company would have a role in the project throughout both design and construction.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey noted that four years was a long time to wait for the project to be done. Baxter said the first year was the design phase and construction would follow.

Commissioner Jack Mariano said he wanted to be sure the commission was informed and involved as the project moved forward. Commission Chairman Mike Moore asked that a staff presentation be made at a future board meeting so commissioners could be kept in the loop.

Six years ago, a space-needs consultant told the county that that jail, which was built in 1990, and other public county facilities were not going to be able to handle future growth. The rated bed capacity for the Land O’ Lakes Detention Center is 1,432. With temporary beds, the facility can hold up to 1,911 inmates, according to Amanda Hunter, spokeswoman for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

"However, classification concerns limit the ability to utilize all temporary beds. Factors such as charges, male, female, juvenile, medical, mental health and behavioral concerns all create classification complications and limit where an inmate may be housed,'' she said.

Officials have estimated that sending inmates to other facilities — including Seminole County several years ago and Hernando County more recently — has cost the county several million dollars annually. In the last fiscal year, the cost of transporting and housing Pasco inmates in Hernando County was nearly $1.5 million.

In June 2018, commissioners agreed to put a bond issue of no more than $132 million on the ballot for Pasco voters to approve to finance the jail expansion project. That approval came with a narrow margin. Last fall, the county sought proposals for the design work, with staff ultimately whittling the companies down to three. Each made oral presentations to the selection committee, which included county and Sheriff’s Office staff.

The design agreement for the jail addition details the minimum expectations for the new facility, which will increase the capacity by 1,000 inmates. It describes a variety of needed areas: single, double and multiple occupancy cells as well as both male and female single-confinement cells.

The addition could also hold space for first appearances, room for classrooms and special programs, treatment rooms, interview areas and a variety of spaces for housing juvenile inmates. A centralized booking and intake center, work spaces for law enforcement officers, medical reception and clinic areas and support service areas including food service areas, laundry and maintenance spaces and storage, are also included on the list.

The estimated project cost is $129 million. The design firm will be responsible for administering both the bidding to find a contractor as well as the construction of the project.

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