The Flagler County administration this morning sealed the first major step toward building an expansion at the Flagler County Jail, likely starting in 2013.
The leading contender to design the project is Tallahassee-based Clemons, Rutherford & Associates, or CRA Architects, a small firm of 23 staffers (including eight architects) that’s designed 23 jails in the last 10 years, at least in parts.
CRA (not to be confused with Texas-based CRA Architecture) is currently working on jails in Volusia, Orange, Hernando and Escambia County. CRA was ranked first among three finalists in a brief ranking session this morning, out of a total of six applicants. The county commission set aside $500,000 for the design contract in this year’s budget, though the final design cost could go as high as $1 million, or about 5 to 7 percent of the total cost of building the project, County Administrator Craig Coffey said shortly after the rankings. Original estimates for the new jail were running as high as $26 million. Coffey said the project will very possibly be less costly than that.
The administration will negotiate an actual price with the firm after submitting the rankings for approval to the county commission at its first meeting in December, when two new commission members—Charlie Ericksen and Frank Meeker—are seated. If the administration and CRA agree on a price, CRA will then be in charge of figuring out the county jail’s needs and how best to meet them. This is not a construction contract: within nine to 12 months, CRA’s work will result in a road map for the county to then follow as it bids out the project.
“Our clients often work with limited funds and it is our job to meet their design goals without exhausting their financial resources,” CRA President William Rutherford wrote in his statement of interest to Flagler. CRA designed jails in a third of Florida’s counties and six other states, and has designed city halls, police stations and courthouses. The company has been in operation for 52 years, and hasn’t been a claimant or defendant in any project for the past 10 years.
It’s possible, but unlikely, that CRA and the county won’t agree on terms. Should that happen, the county will negotiate with the next firm in line.
CRA beat out Orlando-based Strollo Architects (which has worked on schools and, more recently, the old courthouse in Flagler County) and the Orland0-based DLR Group.
CRA’s master schedule has bidding for the new facility taking place in May 2013 and construction ending in July 2014, but those are not binding dates.
Coffey expects the contract to be in place by January. The county had originally secured a $500,000 legislative appropriation for the design contract this year, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it. The county may try again in the next session. The cost of jail construction will be financed through revenue from the half-cent sales tax the county commission voted in in October.
Flagler County went through a similar process, requesting proposals from jail-design firms, just before Coffey took up his post. “I pulled the plug because we didn’t have the money,” Coffey said. That was in December 2007. The county was booming at the time, and its capital dollars, also generated from a sales tax, were spread between several projects. Today, the jail is a priority for the administration and every commissioner.