Jail construction update

By Duwayne Escobedo, Inweekly

So far, the most expensive public building project in Escambia County history remains on target for completion by May 28, 2020.

The $132.4 million Escambia County Correctional Facility will be ready to move in 700 inmates about three to six months after being finished by WGI/Caddell. At this point, the main 115-foot high corridor — “the spine” — was finished Nov. 5 at the site along Pace Boulevard and Fairfield Drive.

County officials said it expects 100 percent capacity in the new correctional facility that replaces the county’s Central Booking and Detention Center that was destroyed by an explosion from a natural gas leak in April 2014 after a torrential downpour flooded the basement. Two people died and 184 others were injured in the blast.

The project is “going very well now,” said Steve Jernigan of Bay Design. “It’s on budget and on schedule.”

Each commissioner plans to take an individual tour of the site to view the progress to date.

Escambia County has housed its inmates at the Walton County jail since the April 14 disaster. In Fiscal Year 2018, Escambia County has paid the Walton Sheriff’s Office about $3.9 million. From the time of the explosion to the present, it has paid Walton more than $15.2 million to handle its inmates.

The latest numbers show Walton currently has 212 Escambia County inmates in its correctional facility.

Escambia County Commission Chairman Lumon May said he hopes to implement programs, such as a Teen Court, that help reduce the number of incarcerated men and women.

“It’s nothing to be proud of to have to build a big jail,” May said.