Yesterday, I posted a November 2012 letter (ObjectionbySheriff ) from Sheriff David Morgan to Interim County Administrator Larry Newsom. At the time, the county commission was poised to rehire George Touart as the county administrator, Gene Valentino was set to be the new commission chairman and Steven Barry and Lumon May had yet to take office.
In the letter, Sheriff Morgan warned of the risks of rebuilding the Central Booking and Detention Center as it was before the June 2012 flooding. Last month, the facility flooded again. An explosion occurred killing two prisoners, paralyzing a guard and injuring 200 inmates and correctional officers. The building will have to be demolished.
The County sent out this statement to explain why they rejected the sheriff’s recommendation to move the functions in the basement (kitchen, laundry, computer systems, etc) to higher ground:
In November 2012, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan voiced concerns about any flood recovery plan that included the rehabilitation of the Central Booking and Detention Facility (CBD).
The Escambia County Commission and Administrative staff had a difficult decision to make. Moving all flood damaged equipment to the next floor of the CBD building, possibly the best way to prevent issues caused by a 100 year storm event, was not considered cost feasible. However, the insurance holder for the County’s correctional facilities had no issues with the County’s plan to repair the damaged facilities, as long as there was proactive improvement measures included in the plan.
The County did include improvements that, once completed, would have helped mitigate the threat posed by severe weather. Those steps included:
Adding a wall and pumps to the bottom floor of the CBD (the back wall was built, but the pumps had not been installed before the April 2014 flood)
Adding additional retention ponds to the area around the jail (property for one new pond had already been purchased before the flood, but construction on a retention pond had not yet begun)
There was no FEMA Disaster declaration following the storm which flooded the CBD building in 2012. This meant that any large-scale changes and improvements would have been paid for solely by the tax payers of Escambia County.
Currently, leaders with the Escambia County Administration, Corrections and Facilities divisions are working with consultants to create a cost benefit analysis of all possible options for the future of corrections facilities. This includes the cost of relocating jail facilities, consolidating operations to comply with the U.S. Department of Justice requests, increasing the use of technology to lower staffing costs while providing the safest, most modern correctional facilities possible.
Plans for the future of Escambia County Corrections will eventually be presented to the Board of County Commissioners for a public review, discussion and approval.