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‘This ain’t a wish list:’ Downtown Jacksonville jail relocation cost could top $1 billion

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Moving the jail out of downtown Jacksonville might end up costing more than originally expected.

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The council member tasked with leading discussions on the proposed move says costs could total a billion dollars.

Missing ceiling tiles, flooded hallways, rusty pipes, and mold and mildew.

Those are the conditions at the downtown jail captured in photos you’ll see only on Action News Jax.

“We have problems every day. Some days it’s much bigger. And the bigger the breakdown, the bigger the impact on us,” said Kavin Goff, Director of Corrections at JSO.

Goff argued the jail, which was built more than 30 years ago, is reaching the end of its useful life.

“This ain’t a wish list of things. This is something that needs to be done,” said Goff.

For the past few months, a special council committee has been laying the groundwork for a new jail.

In a meeting this week, Committee Chair Michael Boylan (R-District 6) revealed the potential cost could top $1 billion for a new facility.

“At the end of the day we want to build a facility that works for us for decades to come,” said Boylan.

In a draft budget document obtained by Action News Jax last year, a new jail facility was priced at $244 million.

Additionally, a UNF poll released last year showed the majority of the public supports spending $380 million on a new jail.

Council President Ron Salem (R-Group 2 At-Large) noted with the city also considering pumping $1 billion into a stadium renovation, a higher price tag on the jail relocation could complicate things.

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“But the jail is, in my mind, a necessity just like getting the Jaguars a renovated stadium is,” said Salem.

He also noted the council just recently approved $10 million for repairs and improvements at the current jail to buy some time, as breaking ground on a new facility is likely three to five years away.

In addition to maintenance costs on the current facility, a new jail could reduce costs in the long run with the addition of an infirmary.

Salem said the city is currently spending millions each year on indigent care for inmates along with their transportation to and security at UF Health.

“There’s a lot of things to be considered as you look at a price tag of $750 to a billion dollars,” said Salem.

And Boylan suggested other revenue sources could be tapped into that could ease the financial burden.

“There are grant opportunities across the spectrum for us to see. We don’t have to put the burden all on our taxpayers,” said Boylan.

To further offset the cost, there’s always the money the city could make from selling the prime real estate the jail currently sits on.

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