As government projects often go, there have been several delays when it comes to leveling and rebuilding the Plantation Key courthouse and jail in Tavernier.
Since 2014, it has been shuffled around on the list of Monroe County’s priorities, but county commissioners recently agreed: the project needs to happen, and soon.
“I took a tour of the courthouse a few weeks ago and was appalled – not so much at the bugs and shape of the building – it’s old,” said Commissioner Sylvia Murphy, adding what shocked her most was the transport of inmates through staff offices to get to the courtroom.
Not to undermine the work of court security, but “That’s just not OK,” she said.
The facility was built in 1980, when “the type of crime in the Keys was much different than it is today,” according to Murphy.
The rebuild of the facility at MM 88.5 bayside in Tavernier will cost more than $20 million.
Commissioners agreed to assign staff to get a guaranteed maximum price on the project by the September commission meeting and proceed with a fully executed contract.
Assistant County Administrator Kevin Wilson told commissioners the quickest start date for construction would be in the first quarter of 2022 and the project would take 24 months to complete.
“There are pieces that precede the construction of the actual courthouse,” he said. “The 900-pound gorilla in the room is that the capital plan is part of the budget process.”
Commissioner George Neugent said he was concerned because of other projects that will happen at the same time. The county wants to build a new Emergency Operations Center in the near future, which will cost in the neighborhood of $25 million.
“That creates somewhat of a concern for me and it should create concern for the commission – how our staff is going to be able to take on such big projects at the same time,” he said.
Chief Judge Mark Jones ,on behalf of himself, seven other judges and staff who work in the county’s 16th Judicial Circuit Court, said the project is urgent.
“Obviously, if this is delayed, the current facility is going to deteriorate further; it’s going to be more expensive and take longer,” he said.