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Columbia County Observer

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County 5's Docket Tonight: New Jail - Residents Could Be on the Hook for $30 to $35,000,000
Public Safety Coordinating Council Tonight at 6 pm

Posted June 12, 2014  09:40 am

Built in the mid eighties and built not to last: The Columbia County Jail

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Tonight at 6 o'clock, the Public Safety Coordinating Council (PSCC), an advisory board to the County 5, meets for the first time since 2006 at the School Board Admin. Bldg. For decades, the County has claimed it needed a new jail. The purpose of the PSCC is to assess the population status of the County Jail. The eternal foot dragging of Florida's quintessential Good Ole' Boy County Commission, and its wheeling and dealing with County funds, may once again put the County's taxpayers and residents on the hook. This time for $30 - $35,000,000.

At post time there was no meeting material made available.

In 2005 and 2006 the PSCC met. It was estimated at that time that a new County Jail would cost taxpayers $30 to $35 million. The County Jail is presently run by the Sherriff, who is under contract from the County 5. Sherriff Hunter recently threatened to turn the jail back over to the County unless he gets an additional $500,000 in his 2015 budget.

The Public Safety Coordinating Council

The PSCC meets for the purpose of assessing the population status of the jail and formulating recommendations to ensure that its capacities are not exceeded. The Council's recommendations must include an assessment of the availability of pretrial intervention or probation programs; work-release programs; substance abuse programs; gain-time schedules; applicable bail bond schedules; and the confinement status of the inmates housed within the jail.

According to the Florida Statutes, the Council may also develop a local public safety plan for future construction needs. The plan must cover at least a 5-year period. The plan may be submitted for consideration to the local planning agency at least 120 days before the adoption of or amendment to the comprehensive plan.

The County 5 approved the Comp-Plan at its last meeting.

2006: The 5 slides jail plans under the carpet - spends money

2006 was a time when Columbia County had informative and extensive minutes. It was before the Clerk of the Courts caved in to the strong-arm tactics of The 5 and went to the abbreviated minutes now made available to the public.

In 2006, after one of the meetings of the PSCC, former County Commission candidate, David Roundtree told The 5: "It seems the council has reached a point in their meetings that they seem convinced that the county needs to hire a construction manager for the new jail project and build a $30,000,000 jail."

Mr. Roundtree continued, "The commission has repeatedly stated that construction of a new jail is not a problem, but the recurring operational expense of maintaining the building and the associated staff is where the problem lies. From reading the minutes, I see that no agreement has been reached between the Sheriff or the Public Safety Council and the Commission regarding the operating staff levels, the operating expenses, nor any resolutions on how VOPs [violators of parole] are going to be addressed. So from my perspective, why would we be seeking a construction manager at this point?”

The Jail Fell By the Wayside

Sometime after Mr. Roundtree addressed The 5, the County Jail fell by the wayside and the millions that were put aside to build the jail were spent on other things.

Now, according the Sheriff Hunter, the Jail is "unsafe" and "outdated."


Tonight, the Public Safety Coordinating Council will begin doing its job of assessing the status of the County Jail.

In 2006, Mr. Roundtree told The 5, "The Board owes it to the tax payers to at the very least do a professional study and comparison of outsourcing vs. new construction and operational costs."

That was over 8 years ago.

The eternal foot dragging of Florida's quintessential Good Ole' Boy County Commission, and its wheeling and dealing with County funds, may have put the County's taxpayers and residents on the hook. This time for $30 - $35,000,000.


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