On Tuesday, consultants from CGL, a Miami-based company that plans, designs, constructs and manages correctional, criminal justice and government facilities, told commissioners the tab for building a planned court complex in the Land O’ Lakes area would be in the neighborhood of $95 million. The county has less than $40 million budgeted for the construction project. But that wasn’t the end of the bad news. CGL Managing Director Bruce Orenstein told commissioners expanding the county jail on U.S. 41 should be a higher priority because correctional officials and the courts could force the county to add jail capacity if it doesn’t act first. CGL says it would cost about $100 million to expand the jail. While they’re at it, commissioners should consider building a centralized sheriff’s office administration building in Land O’ Lakes, CGL is recommending. With commissioners struggling to digest those cost figures, Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Chief Judge J. Thomas McGrady urged them to move forward with construction of what the jurist called the “bare bones” Land O’ Lakes court complex.
Amidst all the money talk, Assistant County Administrator Heather Grimes said the county wouldn’t have enough money for all this building if commissioners boosted the county’s main property rate to the state-set maximum of 10 mills. Pasco, Grimes noted, could raise more money by levying law enforcement impact fees, as other counties have done. We doubt commissioners wanted to hear this, especially in an election year. On the other hand, what law enforcement and the judiciary want, they usually get. We suspect we will hear a lot more about impact fees for court and jail construction.