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County considers jail expansion

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Commissioners at the January 24th, 2023, regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting heard a presentation for the potential expansion of the Hernando County Detention Center.

The county retained the services of HDR Inc, an architectural and engineering firm, to create a Hernando County Detention Center Master Plan. Between March and June 2022, HDR Inc toured the facility and site, collecting data for a series of workshops and planning.

The findings included inadequate housing for those in need of mental health services and those of a disciplinary population, no space for youthful offenders (YO), and a lack of storage needs in the warehouse and kitchen. The goal is to increase the facility’s capacity to 1000 beds, as well as remedy the other issues.

Tommy Sinclair, an architect with HDR, presented several options to the BOCC that aim to remedy the current problems with the facility. The presentation was only for discussion, and no votes were taken at this meeting. The next step will be a discussion of public safety financing by the BOCC. This item and date are undetermined.

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The facility site is limited in size to permit a maximum 10.5-acre expansion on the north side. To use the space efficiently, multi-story buildings are being considered to increase capacity for housing, storage, and other resources.

Several options exist for the expansion of the facility. Using an immediately available 8,700-square-foot area on the northeast side of the existing facility adjacent to the medical facility will not be adequate to incorporate all of the necessary expansion.

Option 1 would be a 10.5-acre expansion, also on the north side of the property. More site clearing would be needed with pond modifications to allow for the most expansion area possible.

Option 2 is a 6.5-acre expansion on the north side of the facility. This option would result in minimal land clearing and pond modification. An internal loop road, the perimeter security fence, and the main water would be moved outward to encompass the new area.

Expansion area option 2, 6.5 acres- HDR Inc.
Expansion area option 2, 6.5 acres- HDR Inc.

Sinclair presented four building construction options, ranging in price from an estimated $44.9 million to $407 million, with the following breakdown:

Option1: 64-bed Mental Health Unit & Warehouse, $44.9m – $48.6m

Option 2: 68-bed Medical/Mental Health Unit, Clinic, YO Renovation and Warehouse, $68.5m – $75.4m

Option 3 (Phase 1 ): 68-bed Medical/Mental Health Unit, Clinic, YO Renovation, and Warehouse, 384 general population beds, $174m – 193.4m

Option 3 (All Phases): New Multi-Level Housing Expansion (Phased Option), $350m – $400m

Option 4: New Facility, $357m – $407m. This does not include the price of a new site purchase.

Commissioner Brian Hawkins questioned the need for expansion, stating that the “State of Florida and overall, we are looking at a reduction in crime.” Hawkins agreed with the need for mental health facilities.

Major Shaun Klucznik, Judicial Services Bureau Commander and Jail Administrator for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), confirmed that the number of Hernando County inmates at the facility has decreased since 2010, from 602 to 477. He went on to say that the oldest of the two housing units (named Alpha) is currently experiencing issues with plumbing.

“If there’s going to be a catastrophic failure of any system, it’s going to be underneath Alpha, and it’s going to be the plumbing system because it’s very old,” Klucznik said.

According to the Hernando County Detention Center’s website, the facility has a maximum capacity of 744 inmates. The detention center also houses juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 who have been adjudicated for treatment as adults charged or sentenced on misdemeanor and felony crimes. According to the latest figures provided by HCSO, there are currently 613 inmates housed in the Hernando County Detention Center.

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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