County OKs jail consultant contract:
The Sarasota County Commission unlocked $68,200 Tuesday to hire a consulting firm to plan a new county jail.
The commissioners did not approve the entire $209,100 contract Liebert & Associates sought, opting instead to a stepped approach based on progress seen in completed tasks.
County Commission Chair Nora Patterson initially balked at the contract, citing her concerns as to whether cities within the county would be on board for the construction of a new jail. She expressed her apprehension to Charles Taylor, human services general manager, who was present to answer questions.
"It does seem rather funny to me to be spending the $209,000 without really having a clue, with a totally unresolved and not terribly promising conversation with our cities on using local option sales tax monies for this project," Patterson said. "What am I going to have at the end of this (expenditure)?"
"I think you are going to have a discrete proposal with different financing plans that you can then make a smart decision about what you're going to get," Taylor said. "What and where and how much."
County Commissioner Shannon Staub leaned toward approving the contract, but suggested a pay-as-you-go approach, based on nine tasks outlined.
"Maybe what we need to do is approve this, but if we don't concur with the initial project recognition, then we may not want to fulfill the contract," Staub said.
Taylor noted the contract was set up in such a way that the commissioners could opt out if they did not see the kind of progress they felt the project deserved.
"There are subsequent steps all through here, where you can put the brakes on and say we've learned enough, we stop," Taylor said.
Ultimately, the commissioners agreed to pay for the first two tasks of the contract -- totaling $68,200 -- encompassing the following:
* Task I: Develop a project organization structure; determine the future use of the existing jail; analyze facility options (renovation or new facility); and develop a budget.
* Task II: Conduct jail tours to see how other jurisdictions operate their jails; develop a mission statement and operational philosophy; and determine functions and services in the new jail including users, activities, behaviors, equipment and furnishings, design criteria and policy decisions.
Additional stopping points were inserted at the $124,000 and $170,000 expenditure points.
By Steven J. Smith
Staff Writer Sun-Herald