October 23, 2019

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Chief Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones, speaking at Friday's groundbreaking, tells a crowd the new Plantation Key Courthouse and Detention Facility will improve safety and efficiency for the legal system and county offices.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Chief Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones, speaking at Friday's groundbreaking, tells a crowd the new Plantation Key Courthouse and Detention Facility will improve safety and efficiency for the legal system and county offices.

ISLAMORADA — The 30-month countdown to opening the new Plantation Key Courthouse and Detention Facility started ticking Friday, Monroe County Commissioner David Rice said.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Rice told a crowd gathered to mark the formal groundbreaking of the county complex at mile marker 88.8, bayside. “Thank you for hanging in there.”

“We stand on the brink of having a state-of-the-art facility that will allow us to do our jobs more effectively, efficiently and safely,” said Mark Jones, chief judge of the state’s 16th Judicial Circuit Court. “This a joyous occasion. Let’s savor it.”

Elected officials including four county commissioners, Sheriff Rick Ramsay and State Attorney Dennis Ward were among officials who grabbed shovels to toss dirt in the ceremonial groundbreaking.

“It was so much work to juggle how to build this thing,” Rice said. “It will be a masterful piece of work.”

When complete, the new courthouse will provide 48,240 square feet of courthouse space for judicial and administrative court staff, the Clerk of the Court’s civil and criminal offices, and Monroe County Public Works office and facilities.

The new detention center covers about 11,000 square feet that will feature improved security controls to house a 46-person bunk room, four two-person cells and two one-person cells.

Total cost of the new courthouse and detention facility is estimated at around $33 million.

“I am overjoyed,” said retired county judge Reagan Ptomey, who began pushing for improvements at the deteriorating Plantation Key courthouse complex two decades ago.

The new buildings are designed to withstand sustained winds of 155 mph, and gusts of 200 mph.

“Tenants will continue to work in the old building adjacent to the construction while the facility is built,” said county information officer Kristen Livengood.

kwadlow@keysnews.com