BRADENTON -- What's required of a correctional facility is far more complicated than what meets the eye. Everything is built stronger to last longer, and the amount of equipment required to guarantee safety, for those both inside and out, is forever changing.
The Central Jail makes up 3/4 (285,000 sq. ft.) of the total 393,000 sq. ft. of the facility. There's three stockade buildings, a boot camp, farm training, officer training buildings, a meat processing facility, a youth academy and portables.
Maintenance, materials and supplies run about $500,000 a year, not including employees. There are just 11 allocated maintenance staff who have been keeping the place in shape since 2008.
Among the improvements and projects accomplished to date are: a modern digital video recording system, an automated energy control system, upgraded energy-efficient lighting, a conversion from propane to natural gas, and a detention center locking system.
Much needed kitchen upgrades have been made, hallway rail guards, perimeter lights and a boiler replaced. Outside are exercise yard modifications and metal roofing replacement for the central jail and stockade building.
There is new fencing, carpet, AC units, laundry equipment, water lines and meters. Most of all that which was replaced had been the original 1995 equipment. Upgrading the gear has made it more efficient and has already proven to conserve funds. The automated energy control system alone has saved $200,000 over the last two years.
There are still many projects on Sheriff Brad Steube's and Property Management Director, Charlie Bishop's wish list. Tuesday's workshop was scheduled so that both might sit down with Manatee County Commissioners and brief them prior to the jail tour they would all take afterward.
The tour was not only to show off the accomplishments, but to display the requested projects still needed. A meat packing plant generator was on the list as well as new kitchen equipment. Some of the 1995 paint and stucco was still on some walls and there was a need for an emergency generator connect. A couple of long-awaited maintenance buildings, a desperate cry for a new medical wing and repavement of the entire complex were also heard. After all of that, the facility would be in tip-top shape according to staff.
Then the difficult subject reared its ugly head. Bishop said it first, "It all comes down to the money." The wish list or "unfunded request" had an estimated pricetag of $1.3 million.
There was talk of trying to squeeze some from the reserves from the contingency fund, the stabilization fund, and County Administrator Ed Hunzeker suggested waiting to see what the state legislature was going to do. Commissioner McClash asked Sheriff Steube if he could find any revenue in the 1/2 cent sales tax fund and Commissioner DiSabatino suggested getting a little bit from them all.
There seemed to be a consensus that the subject of funds would be best handled by putting it on the regular agenda (another day) when more information will be available, and maybe the funds for the projects too.
All participating parties then left for their tour.
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