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New Flagler Jail and Sheriff’s HQ Cost Estimates Stun Officials, Who Call It “A Setback”

| July 7, 2014

Not just yet. (Gordon Inc.)

Not just yet. (Gordon Inc.)

Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey is not sugarcoating it. “It’s a setback,” he said Monday of the latest construction cost estimates for the proposed new county jail and the new sheriff’s operation center.

The county was hoping to see jail construction costs at $14 to $15 million. When the architectural firm hired for the job presented its preliminary plans to the County Commission in May, much was made of savings that could add up to $2 million, although total project costs were still less than precise, as is normally the case at that stage.

On June 27, Allstate Construction Inc., the contractor for the jail, completed its cost estimate for the new jail. The bottom line: $22.22 million.

Jacksonville’s TTV Architects Inc. also submitted estimates of probable construction costs for the Sheriff’s Operations Center, intended to go where the old Memorial Hospital building stands in Bunnell. The administration’s cost estimates to the commission last year were placed at $5.3 million, not including the $1.23 million purchase price of the building. The administration has since brought its budget down to $5 million. But total demolition and construction cost estimates by TTV Architects came in at $6.2 million.

Coffey says the operations center costs can and will be brought to within budget. “We’re tweaking that, and it will come into line,” he said. He was more concerned about the jail costs.

“Any project, there’s bumps in the road,” Coffey said. “This appears to be a much larger bump than anticipated. At the end of the day, if we have to we’ll scrap and retool the project.” Projects of that size will produce disparities between architectural projections and construction estimates. “Normally it’s not this far out of whack,” Coffey said. “This is a pretty big difference.”

Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre was unsettled by the new numbers and spoke to some of the county commissioners about them, as he and they attended an Independence Day ceremony hosted by Palm Coast at heroes Park Friday morning. “He might have been a little concerned about it, that’s for sure,” Commissioner Frank Meeker said, “but all of us are concerned when we nsee numbers that are over and above what we thought.”

Manfre declined to speak with a reporter about the numbers Monday. “Those are both county facilities, so any comment on that would have to come from them,” Bob Weber, the sheriff’s chief spokesman, said. “That whole process of construction and estimates is theirs.”

The construction estimates for the jail are outlined in a detailed 31-page report, with line-by-line costs for everything f rom asphalt ($151,000) to fencing ($124,000) to concrete ($3.2 million), masonry ($1.1 million), paint ($222,000) and so on.

The outline estimates that costs could be brought down to $16.5 million, but only by eliminating planned four-bed and two-bed cells for three 68-bed dorms instead, and by building a booking area and a kitchen, but dispensing with the support building and a video visitation area, which commissioners had favored. The dorm approach would save $583,000. The booking and kitchen addition would cost $2 million, but save $5.2 million if other amenities are set aside. The support building and video visitation area alone would cost $7.2 million. Coffey was especially surprised by the costs associated with the video visitation rea, noting that in some cases he knew of, the facility cost is not borne by the local government but by the company that runs the system—which then, in turn bills inmates and generates revenue that way. (Such costs, as with phone calls  and money transfers, are notoriously high for inmates and their families).


None of those disparities featured in a presentation to commissioners by Tallahassee-based CRA Architects in May, when all talk about the panopticon-like, 272-bed jail in the shape of an octagon revolved around projected savings, especially by using the existing jail as retooled administrative space.

The county is financing the new jail and the sheriff’s operations center with revenue from a sales surtax. But that money is by no means limitless: it generates about $2 million a year. The county faces a slew of new projects over the next several years, including a new fire station on the west side, possibly a new library branch, a new skateboarding park at Wadsworth park, and a massive upgrade of its emergency communications system, which alone is projected to cost anywhere from $9 million to $18 million. For now, the jail and the operations center will be accounting for the majority of the sales tax revenue. But any additional costs that those two projects incur means less money for other county needs—a prospect the administration does not want to contend with financially, and commissioners don’t want to contend with politically.

Still, both sides are stressing that the latest cost estimates still represent early stages of the projects, with much negotiating ahead. Meeker spoke of eliminating some features at the new jail to bring it within budget. “It’s going to be done with the budget that’s available, and there’s only so much that’s available in the budget,” Meeker said, “without sacrificing what they’re designing for, and I think it can be done.”

The commission met twice on Monday and was scheduled to meet twice again on Tuesday—in early morning for a ribbon-cutting at the new restaurant at Bull Creek Campground, and later in the morning in another budget session. The jail and sheriff’s operations’ costs never came up for discussion on Monday—the matter was not on the agenda—and are not on Tuesday’s agendas. But the commission’s discussions on both days have and will focus on financial matters that would be affected by cost overruns at the two large projects.

Coffey spoke of the jail as an absolute necessity, but of also of the costs meeting the county’s budget as an equally absolute necessity. “We’ll have to bring it within budget. We’ll have to do what we have to do,” he said, going as far as projecting restarting the project if necessary. “If we’re not on track, we may have to retool,” he said. “We’ve got to get there.”

Flagler County Jail Construction Estimates (June 2014)

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37 Responses for “New Flagler Jail and Sheriff’s HQ Cost Estimates Stun Officials, Who Call It “A Setback””

  1. Steve Wolfe says:

    Gee, a cost overrun, even before construction begins. I’ve never seen that before with a project undertaken by politicians. I am just floored.

  2. fruitcake says:

    Don”t worry, they will write the check regardless of the cost.

  3. Genie says:

    Mr. Coffey and Members of the County Commission:

    You must think we are made of money in this county. The citizens of Flagler County can no longer afford you and the members of the Commission who have champagne tastes on a beer budget. You just don’t seem to be getting that message.

    Time to vote you all out of office. Our current tax base is going to go bankrupt trying to pay for all this. You all need to move to a much larger city if you want to build projects like this.

  4. Anonymous says:

    In America where we incarcerate more than 400 individuals per capita, more than any other nation on earth, it’s time we revisit what we’re trying to accomplish. It is not cost effective to warehouse humans. There are other meaningful consequences that will allow people to repay their debt – literally – to society by working and paying for their crimes while living and being monitored in their own homes, paying for their own food and shelter. Only those who commit extreme violent acts need to be kept behind lock and key. It’s time we rethink, America.

  5. Informative says:

    Gee we forgot to do our due diligence..sorry
    Guess the Commission will go vote behind closed doors to raise more revenues .
    You can’t make this stuff up! This is pure nonsense!
    Out with the Old Commissioners in with the New!

  6. Dennis McDonald says:

    We all need to remember that the present ” leaders ” just delivered the Court House Annex train wreck so what would make us believe that they would be capable of anything more. Recently I had someone from Bunnell comment ” our Commissioners are smarter than yours ” hard to argue after reading this.
    Allow me to restate..” The Commissioners plan to build a new jail for the criminals and recycle a decayed hospital for our Deputies is Inverted and Flawed ! ” But now spending $22,000,000 on this is Criminal. This new super jail that will have 280 beds up from our current 140 beds and expandable with another 500 beds to be added later can not be allowed to become the new Growth Industry in Flagler. Did I mention that nationally crime is down but our BOCC and Staff are tooling UP !
    The Voters will “Retool” August 26 and then again November 4 2014.

    Dennis McDonald

    • confidential says:

      Yes we better get out and vote all these useless fraudsters incumbents out!
      They have to back up/stop all these ludicrous unnecessary, pretentious capital projects that the taxpayers vote down by referendum including the P.C City Hall!! We can’t afford them! No more raising our taxes!

  7. Joe says:

    Can somebody please write another letter explaining why they voted for this again please?

  8. confidential says:

    Lies, lies and more lies. They will “create” a new surtax on us, to fund this new un needed taj mahal read my lips.
    Just like is happening with Bunnell they lied, lied, lied, these commissioners that the Plantation Bay Utility that the almost forced Bunnel into be associated with county for its purchase and running would be funded by the Plantation Bay users fees increase. Look a Bunnell no facing a bankrupted budget because they do not have the money to confront 5.600.000 million at least the debt. For what? to benefit Mori Hosseini and their own extended hands.
    Hey we can’t afford it! So save the funds within at least the next 5 years in a capital projects reserve and then think about this luxury. Have you forgotten that Flagler is still the #1or #2 highest unemployment county is the Florida’s Northeast “Crown Jewel”? No more surtaxes or raising taxes for these abuses!.

  9. Too Much says:

    So really this whole new jail is a scheme to get money out of the inmates families. This whole judicial system is corrupted from the top down.

  10. m&m says:

    The Taj Mahal they built is almost empty why not use that?

  11. Rob says:

    When they learned that a couple of their cronies was trying to unload a property that no one else would touch they were all in, no matter how unwise the purchase.

    Now if you think that something like inflated costs are going to get in the way of this folly you are sadly mistaken.

    The heck with the torpedoes, full steam ahead.

  12. Ann Lohman says:

    Is there an alternative to packing our current county jail with low level, non-violent drug offenses? That would save million$, wouldn’t it? Maybe even pay for rehab, treatment, job placement– with lots left over to free up our law enforcement to PROTECT and SERVE us citizens. Incarceration should be reserved for protecting the public from DANGEROUS, VIOLENT criminals . . .

  13. confidential says:

    @ Ann the problem is the back up in the court house hearings and as I witnessed is due to the leniency of most judges when they give in to the lawyers of offenders “taking too long to prepare their cases” I have spent entire days in the court waiting to be witness along with other affected residents on the hearings of aggressive individuals caught in violations of their injunctions with criminal records. Looks like a big joke to me that after an individual causes material damages and physical death threat and the witnesses are present to testify still they are given more time to prepare their case, costing us innocent citizens taxpayers more $$ and extended danger. Florida court system is too lenient and the interpretation of the law is up to the eye of the beholder, other that to the reality of the victims.

    • Just saying says:

      The US constitution gives everyone the right to a speedy trial, not the requirement. Prosecutors too need time to make the best possible case, this can be achieved by waiting to file charges until the statute of limitations is up. If you were charged, would like the option to waive speedy trial and get the best defense you could build?

  14. anon says:

    @ Too Much: Yes indeed, that’s what the “prisons for profit” are all about. Make no mistake, jails and prisons are profitable, if they were not they would not exist on the scale that they do. They exploit the families of those locked up. Family members have to send money to the inmates for toiletries, underwear, socks, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, sick call, Tylenol if they have a headache, and the phone calls are unbelievable.

    @ Ann Lohman: of course there is an alternative. There is always an alternative. In this case there are many positive alternatives. There is no purpose at all served by the ritual act of locking up a non-violent offender, even overnight or for a couple of days, knowing the person will bond out. Why bother with the lock up? Set the fine and send the non-violent offender home.

    When was the last time the School System was approved for $22.2 million to improve services? Or the local college? How about we build a factory for jobs? Statistics prove when people are gainfully employed, crime drops substantially. We will become what we plan for. If we build a bigger jail, we will HAVE to fill it and keep it full in order to justify it and to keep the funding coming in to sustain it and the salaries of those who work there. It’s sad that America is knows as “The Nation of Incarceration”.

    If you haven’t registered to vote, it’s not too late. Register today and VOTE !!!

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    Right On Ann! Warehousing human beings is not only inhumane it is ineffective and costly.

    Our political leaders should be thinking ahead. When growing and using pot is finally decriminalized, our jails and prisons will have much more room for violent criminals. Also, if and when any kind of rehabilitation/mental treatment/community service is included as part of our justice system, fewer jail/prison cells would be needed. There needs to be a comprehensive over haul of our entire criminal justice system. . . BUT, good luck with that considering the myopic/small minded leaders we have in our county and state.

  16. anon says:

    Register. VOTE. Call our representatives and demand representation. We the People have not demanded representation in exchange for our taxation. It’s long overdue. I’ve been voting, calling, emailing, and writing letters. I’m even going to a peaceful demonstration soon to make my beliefs known.

  17. confidential says:

    Now already Coffey and McLaughlin already planning to raise 5 more cents our already rip off gas tax …and to fund all their frivolous spending.!
    http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20140708/NEWS/140709517/1040?Title=Flagler-County-officials-discuss-gas-tax-options-

  18. Anonymous says:

    i foresee a day when we will ignore all misdemeanors and just lock up all felony crimes. it will help gun sales which are down this year

  19. BW says:

    Has anyone ever stopped and thought that instead of spending large amounts of money on expanding the accommodations for criminals we should be investing that money into ending criminal behavior? The problem is not the size of jail facilities. The problem is people committing crimes. If you reduce and eliminate the crime, the whole discussion of jail expansions goes away.

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      Many crimes diminish when there are lots of jobs. That requires a favorable business climate and cutting the flow of cheap labor illegally across the southern border. Rick Scott got the first part right in Florida, although there’s little he can do about our local politicians who have managed to avoid attracting businesses.

      The southern border has been a welcome mat for people to come and undercut the labor force. That needs national level fixing, but so far those politicians can’t get it right. On our level we need to read, write and vote for pro-growth people (not the kind who simply grow their own political carees). If we push for the restoration of our economy we will reap much that can solve our current problems, even a bigger tax base to keep our county government in the black. But we must keep our eyes on the prize. We must act locally first. When we get our own house (city, county) in order we are a stronger voice for the changes we want. Many of our current crop of politicians are just being groomed to move up the political food chain by doing the bidding of their deep-pocketed friends. And please ignore their cronies, too. This is all too serious to leave in the hands of politicians who are not looking out for us, the taxpayers, first.

  20. Genie says:

    Anybody else had it with taxation without representation?

    • Steve Wolfe says:

      Right on, Genie, that’s what it is. Too many of our local guys are just trying to climb the government ladder by acting favorably towards anyone with the money they need to for election campaigns. We have an opportunity to replace several this year with people who believe that WE the taxpayers deserve representation, which we won’t get by re-electing the status quo.

      This requires action by us. If we don’t participate then we can’t complain about what we get. The incumbents have special interest-fed money to feed a campaign machine. We have our voices, our feet, and our votes.

  21. Steve Wolfe says:

    I also believe that the “shock” of our local politicians is feigned as a smoke screen for themselves so they canappear innocent. They are doing what all the big-timers do. Submit a proposal with an cost range developed in-house by their staff, then act as if they never saw it coming. It gives them a boogey man to blame for their underestimate. “It’s those damn greedy private companies reaching into your pockets. THEY made us raise your taxes! We never wanted to do that (again…cough…snicker…for the fourth time)! So they scorn their boogey man publicly while privately back slapping the evil private company’s CEO at the signing ceremony. Later we see them all grinning for the newspaper picture with their sleeves rolled up and a silver shovel stuck in the first scoop. How glamourous. Tossing the dirt they say, “This is for the PEOPLE.”

  22. toughen up manfree says:

    I think our sherriff and commissioners need to implement a jail similar to the Maricopa county jail. Manfree could learn a few things from Sherriff Joe. Make it so miserable that they dont want to return.

  23. Bunnell Resident says:

    If they construct this jail for $81,682 per bed they should reserve their own beds as the first inmates. Jail populations fluctuate wildly in small town America. What is the average daily demand right now for housing of these petty criminals? What steps can we take to avoid housing people in jail such as writing a ticket to appear for smaller offenses rather than leaving someone locked up for a few days before seeing a judge? Smarter use of bail? Contract with neighboring counties to pay them to house some prisoners during peek times as necessary and doing the same in return for neighboring counties? There are many options and ideas not even discussed that might make building a new jail unnecessary. How about just building an annex to the existing jail? If this was their money instead of our money they would not be so quick to spend it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You are exactly right Steve Wolfe and Bunnell Resident. Bring in jobs locally to correct the problem. And we do not need a bigger jail at all, in fact the goal should be to work towards eliminating the need for the one we have now.

  25. Ray Thorne says:

    Cost estimates stun officials…really?

  26. Mike says:

    If you vote for any incumbents in Flagler County you are crazy, that is rewarding people who do a terrible job with 4 more years of pay, just a absurd thought to me

  27. Tom C. says:

    This is so typical of the County Commission. They have no sense of the value of a $.
    To them, Flagler County taxpayers are a bottomless bucket of $.

  28. Ray Thorne says:

    “The administration’s cost estimates to the commission last year were placed at $5.3 million, not including the $1.23 million purchase price of the building. The administration has since brought its budget down to $5 million. But total demolition and construction cost estimates….

    Total demolition? I had said that was coming… We overpaid for a building that will be knocked down to build brand new. There were other options…
    Their job, on behalf of taxpayers, is to keep the horse before the cart. They’re to be on top of figures and not “stunned” by them though i believe they knew (especially about the old hospital) and being “stunned” is just a silly attempt at damage control.

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