Ball Rolling On Building New Escambia Jail

Aug 21, 2015

John E. Polk Correctional Facility Expansion by DLR group
Credit dlrgroup.com

The Escambia County Commission is instructing staff to move ahead in hiring a design firm to develop plans for a new county jail.

The commissioners’ wish list is for a nearly 1,500 bed facility to replace the Central Booking Facility that was damaged by an explosion in April of last year, along with other aging components of the county jail complex.

“It sounds like building a jail would be an easy thing to do, just a lot of concrete and a lot of metal bars,” said county Finance Director Amy Lovoy. “[But] there’s just tons and tons of things that need to be considered when you’re constructing one.”

Nebraska-based DLR Group was selected last month at a cost of $4 million. The firm will work with the involved county agencies to develop specs for the jail. Commissioner Grover Robinson says DLR will help write the scope of the project, starting with the early challenge of picking the site. 

“So then they can write to that site,” said Robinson. “Probably one of the biggest things right now is to come together on a location and scope. Once we get that solved, we’ll be able to put it out for bid, award a contract and start construction.”

The agreement calls for DLR to provide three services – Evaluate the three potential locations for the jail – at the intersection of Palafox and Airport, near Palafox and Brent, and the Superfund site at Beggs Lane and North Palafox. The other services would split the construction into a couple of phases -- design criteria for a 700-bed facility, and another such package for expansion to the eventual 15 hundred beds.

DLR officials have been mum about the project. But earlier this year architect Tim Gibson said they could build on whichever site is selected, pointing to the firm’s more than 30 criteria packages in Florida and nationwide. That got a thumbs-up from Finance Director Amy Lovoy.

“They have a lot of references supporting them, so if they say they can build it anywhere, I’m going to believe them,” Lovoy said.

The jail project – from design to groundbreaking in October to ribbon-cutting – is expected to take just over three years at a projected cost of $140 million, according to county documents. Meantime, county staff estimates an $11.5 million price tag for housing inmates outside the county during that time.