Pinellas County Commission OKs Agreements for Jail Security and Entry Center Project

CLEARWATER — Pinellas County commissioners unanimously approved agreements March 8 for a Pinellas County Jail security and entry center project. The first agreement was with Creative Contractors Inc. for construction management at risk services and the second was with Williamson Dacar Associates Inc. for design services.

The complexities of the project require Creative Contractors and Williamson Dacar Associates to work together to program, design, price and build the center, using a construction manager at risk delivery process, according to a staff report.

The project includes demolition of two “mini buildings” and “A barracks” to make space for a new security and entry center at the 49th Street jail in Clearwater. The purpose of the new 11,300 square foot facility is to make sure that all visitors, such as attorneys, clergy, bonding agency employees and the public, are screened properly. Prisoner release functions also are included as part of the facility.

The new center will have a public lobby, public property window, bail bonding, security screening with the inmate release. A new 500 square foot building with three incoming and two outgoing canopy-covered gated vehicle lanes will be used for vehicle screening. Seventy-two new public parking spaces with 103 new secure parking spaces also are included.

The project consists of two phases. Phase one contains pricing and design of program services. Phase two includes development of the guaranteed maximum price for construction of the project along with construction documents, specifications and schedules.

The agreement with Creative Contractors as construction manager at risk during the preconstruction phase calls for payment of $45,000 and a term of 730 consecutive calendar days. Williamson Dacar Associates’ agreement includes an “upset limit” over 730 days of $796,308.

Estimated construction cost is $12 million.

Commissioners were reluctant to approve the project and deferred the decision from the Feb. 22 meeting due to the unexpected cost. Most scheduled time to go out and tour the existing facility to verify the need for something new.

Commissioner Karen Seel was concerned because the facility was not included as part of the original master plan of courts and jails projects budgeted from Penny for Pinellas. The issue now is finding additional money to pay for the project, especially during a time when costs are going up. Staff is already trying to stretch the funds coming in through Penny for Pinellas collections. Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect sales tax collections as significantly as feared.

About $7 million of the $12 million had already been budgeted from the funds set aside for courts and jails, as agreed upon when voters passed the sales tax referendum in 2017. The remainder of the money will have to come from “general penny revenue,” according to County Administrator Barry Burton.

Penny for Pinellas is a 1-cent sales tax approved by voters used primarily to pay for infrastructure projects. In 2017, voters agreed to use 11.3% (an estimated $60 million) of the money collected from 2020-2030 for courts and jail facilities.

Joe Lauro, director Of Administrative Services, told commissioners that money to fill the funding gap could come from savings on a helicopter hanger, which was also part of funds budgeted from Penny for Pinellas for the sheriff’s office. That money was not part of the total allocated to courts and jails.

Seel requested that staff put together a presentation to update the commission on the status of all Penny for Pinellas projects and the budget.

In other business, commissioners approved a resolution that expands and modifies the county’s COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program, as requested by the city of St. Petersburg. The city would like to include additional income-eligible households that are at risk of homelessness or housing instability due to COVID-19.

The county received more than $21 million and the city received just over $8 million in a first round of federal funding for emergency rental assistance. In a second round of funding, the county received $24 million and the city was awarded more than $6 million.

The county and the city worked together and began offering programs to help households unable to pay rent and utilities on March 31, 2021. The city has since spent all of its money; however the county still has funding available. The resolution will allow the county and city to work together to provide additional help to residents in St. Petersburg, including those living in hotels and motels, who were not eligible before.

Commissioners approved acceptance of a grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Florida Communities Trust Program for the purchase of the Gladys Douglas Hackworth property in Dunedin.

The county and the city submitted a joint grant application in December 2020 for a grant for $2.4 million to help pay for the purchase of the property. Burton told commissioners that the grant was one “many phases and pieces” that will help reimburse the county and city for the expenses incurred when purchasing the environmentally sensitive land.

He said the acquisition turned out to be a good investment. Thanks to the grants, all but about $800,000 of the money expended will be recouped for the county and city.

“We took a risk to get the property and the community stepped up. It paid off in a big way,” he said.

Additional grant funding should be coming by the end of the year; however, Burton pointed that more expenses also are expected as work continues to preserve the property and make it into a park for the public to enjoy.

Commissioners also approved a first amendment to a public transportation grant agreement with Florida Department of Transportation for design and construction of new taxiways at the 130-acre Airco site located adjacent to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, call letters PIE.

The first grant agreement for $200,000 was approved in April 2021. The first amendment is for $2 million. The grant money will be used to design and construct two taxiways, which will connect Airco and PIE’s airfield.

Commissioners made two changes before approving recommendations from the Tourist Development Council for changes to the elite event funding program guidelines. The TDC provides funding to major events that meet eligibility requirements based on the number of attendees or room nights spent at local lodging accommodations.

Seel objected to a change to increase maximum funding for category one from $125,000 to $200,000. The commission agreed to change the maximum funding to $150,000. The consensus was that most events would apply for the maximum whether they needed it or not. Commissioners felt that $150,000 was enough for the category.

Commissioners also balked at revising room night and attendance thresholds.

Revisions approved included changing the name of the cultural heritage category to category four, addition of a new category five for first-time events and elimination of the TDC Elite Committee, which will be replaced by staff.

An agreement was approved with the Pinellas Ex Offender Reentry Coalition for administration of the sterile needle and syringe exchange program designed to reduce the spread of communicable diseases.

The coalition will be responsible for one-to-one exchange of syringes and will offer educational materials on communicable diseases, on-site counseling and referrals for treatment, and provide emergency opioid overdose treatment kits.

Source: Tampa Bay Newspapers