Local News

Funding plans finalized for new sheriff’s office

— Highlands County is likely still 10 months away from breaking ground on a $9.1 million new law enforcement facility, County Engineer Ramon Gavarrete said Thursday.

On Tuesday, county commissioners moved $4.4 million from three other projects: $1.1 million from unallocated capital financial strategy projects, $2.7 million from a property and evidence building on Kenilworth that will now be consolidated into the new sheriff’s office, and $600,000 in reserves from the Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee.

The rest of the funding will come from putting off the completion of Sebring Parkway Phase II for three years and $1 million that would have been spent on jail modifications.

Commissioners also approved a contract on Tuesday with Architects Design Group to design the building itself.

“The purchase order will be issued on Monday or Tuesday,” Gavarrete said.

The county engineering staff is already working on site plans, Gavarrete said. “We’re designing the parking lot and getting the water district permits.”

All that will produce a set of plans that will be done by January or February 2015, Gavarrete said. “Probably around April, we will award a contract. It will be a year to a year-and-a-half construction period, so it will probably be finished at the end of 2016 at the earliest. Maybe January or February 2017.”

The entire funding source will come from the current one-cent sales tax collections, Gavarrete said. “One hundred percent.”

Five years ago, the plan was to build the new sheriff’s office on George Boulevard, northwest of the county health department.

From an engineering standpoint, putting the new office building a block east of the current sheriff’s office is a good idea, Gavarrete said.

“It’s a better location,” Gavarrete said. “Drainage can connect to the wastewater system we have already established from the Sebring Parkway ponds, and we already have water and sewer in the area. On George, we would have had to bring the (City of Sebring) sewer one mile, and that would have been $1 million.”

The new building will be a block from the courthouse, a block from the state attorney’s office and a block from the public defender’s office. The jail will be two blocks away.

“It makes sense to have all the functions together,” Gavarrete said.