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Construction starts soon on Pasco jail expansion as sheriff hands over the keys

Delays in the construction and overcrowding were reasons why Sheriff Chris Nocco wanted out of the jail business.
The total cost for the project, including design, permitting and construction, is just under $208 million.
The total cost for the project, including design, permitting and construction, is just under $208 million. [ Times (2013) ]
Published Aug. 19|Updated Aug. 22

DADE CITY — The long-awaited expansion of Pasco County’s jail is expected to begin in the coming weeks just as the county prepares to take over management of the detention center from Sheriff Chris Nocco.

Delays in construction, overcrowding and the rising costs of the operation — including fees paid to other jurisdictions for housing the overflow of inmates — are among the reasons Nocco cited when he announced earlier this year he wanted out of the jail business.

Earlier this month, the county commission reaffirmed its choice of Moss & Associates LLC as its construction manager to oversee the work, with an estimated completion time of summer 2025. In spring 2020, the company was brought on board to handle the pre-construction portions of the job.

The total cost for the project, including design, permitting and construction, is just under $208 million.

The 386,477-square-foot jail addition at the Central Pasco jail complex will include space for additional inmates and for medical, mental health and administrative beds. New support areas also will be added, including a new secure entry point, intake and release areas, a new kitchen, expanded laundry rooms and expanded security response and staff support areas. The complex’s overall fire alarm and security systems also will be completely upgraded.

The project will include a public visitation building. It will allow families to visit inmates using video conferencing and conduct other business without entering the secure perimeter of the jail. The visitation building will be located on the corner of Asbel Road and U.S. 41.

Additional parking is planned along with a new security road around the exterior of the jail and new technology infrastructure for the jail and any future buildings on the site.

In March, Sheriff Chris Nocco announced his plan to turn the jail over to Pasco County. In December, he appeared before the commission to complain that, while he was happy to manage the jail, the financial difficulties there were ongoing.

Having more inmates than space has been an issue for a while and the temporary structure built at the detention center is years past its expected life span. While the jail addition was supposed to add 1,000 inmate spaces, rising costs caused it to be scaled back to just 540. That means the jail complex still will be over capacity when the addition opens.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, shown here inside the county detention center in Land O'Lakes, previously endorsed a $185 million bond issue to finance a 1,000-bed expansion of the jail and to add new and rebuilt fire stations across the county. Times Staff (2014)
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, shown here inside the county detention center in Land O'Lakes, previously endorsed a $185 million bond issue to finance a 1,000-bed expansion of the jail and to add new and rebuilt fire stations across the county. Times Staff (2014) [ Times Staff ]

Meanwhile, the county continues to approve new development, which will add to the future burden. Nocco said he had to make the tough choice to end his management of the jail.

Since then county officials have been pushing through a pile of activities to prepare for the new responsibilities, including approving the hiring a company for the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles. That will enable her staff to conduct an inventory of assets Pasco County will receive and aid in managing the transition.

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Last month, county commissioners voted to form a new Pasco County Corrections Department, which will operate the jail after October 1, when the transition is expected to be completed. At that meeting, they also tentatively appointed Stacey Jenkins as the chief corrections officer of the jail. They are expected to formalize that decision next week.

Jenkins, who currently serves as commander of the Court Services Bureau for Nocco, has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 1991, starting as a detention deputy and rising through the ranks to her current job, according to the Sheriff’s website. She has overseen numerous aspects of the jail over her career and has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University with a concentration in legal studies.

The county is also in the process of hiring an assistant county administrator over a newly formed Public Safety Branch, which will comprise Fire Rescue and Corrections, said county spokesperson Sarah Andeara.

While the shift in oversight has been challenging, she said staff on both sides of the change have been working together well and are “focused on the same outcome of a seamless transition and as little disruption to detention center team members as possible.”

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