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Discussions begin on how & where to replace Escambia jail
ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. Discussions are underway to replace the Escambia County Central Booking and Detention Center. It exploded in April due to a gas leak. The explosion killed two inmates and injured 184 people. County Administrator Jack Brown says the general feeling amongst Commissioners is that the jail should be rebuilt in a different location. However, at Wednesdays County Budget Workshop, commissioners realized they are also facing a giant budget question mark. Thats because no one has a clear estimate of how much building a new jail will cost the county. County Commissioner Gene Valentino tells Channel 3, he would like to a see facility that can be used in many more ways than the previous facility. Were coming up with a concept called a jail campus, he explained. The jail campus will be a campus not only for education of inmates, but also on the law enforcement side. Lets go back and revisit the concept for education for deputies. Valentino said that was an idea explored by the county before, and it would be a good time to revisit the idea. However, it would be difficult for commissioners to move forward with any kind of idea or plan without knowing how much of the project the county would have to pay. One number thrown out at Wednesdays budget workshop was $150-million. That figure came from County Budget Chief Amy Lovoy. That figure could be the countys responsibility if FEMA or Countys Insurance plan doesnt pay up. A county spokesperson says the staff has proposed a $382.5 million dollar target budget for the next fiscal year, though that amount will likely change based on input from the budget workshops. Many agencies are involved with the jail explosion including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The process is expected to move slowly, despite Commissioners needing to get next years budget plan finalized by the end of September. Anytime you have an investigation of this magnitude, its going to move slowly, Brown said. You have law enforcement investigations; the insurance is going to investigate; they still have to see the building, go in, and determine causation." County commissioners have a few different options. Aside from jail campus, some have thrown out the idea of a temporary jail. Valentino says that the challenge will be the find the most cost effective plan in design and location. We're looking at land we already have, we are looking at vacant lots owned by others, he said. We're looking at vacated buildings that would have to come out and be retro-fitted. It's all on the table."