As costs rise for Broward sheriff’s training center, a budget shortfall looms, audit warns

A clearer picture is emerging of how costs have kept mounting for the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s new training center: The county anticipates the facility now will cost $73.6 million — but it still faces a budget shortfall of nearly $10 million, a newly released audit reveals.

The new training center — formally known as the Research, Development and Training Center — is located behind the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters at 2601 W. Broward Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, but has not yet opened. It’s grown bigger than originally planned.

County Auditor Bob Melton wrote in his interim report, dated Wednesday, said that “project funding is not adequate to meet anticipated project costs.”

He notes that the project will cost $73.6 million, but only $64.1 million has been allocated. Of that, $55.5 million comes from Broward County, and $8.6 million reallocated by the Sheriff’s Office, “resulting in a $9.5 million funding shortfall as of June 10, 2024,” he wrote. The Sheriff’s Office has left some vacant positions unfilled to help pay for the ballooning bill, the audit said.

The Sheriff’s Office has not yet commented on the auditor’s report.

Facing expenses

Among the auditor’s findings for the new center were $500,000 in increased costs for elevator reconfiguration, a $6.1 million change order to install underground tanks and related mechanisms to meet rainwater drainage requirements and $500,000 for “additional branding” throughout the building, including illuminated signage.

Increased costs also include:

— The original agreement included a “shell,” or empty space, for the fourth floor. A change order added a $7.5 million complete build-out of the fourth floor to accommodate a fitness center, locker rooms, as well as floor strengthening to accommodate the exercise machines and weights.

— $2.2 million for the gun range to raise the ceiling elevation to accommodate the entry of vehicles needed for training exercises and increased costs due to a change in the subcontractor selected for design and installation of the ranges.

— $1 million to turn a “Flex Room” into an auditorium.

The auditor began researching the project after the county administrator emailed county commissioners in December stating that “we are not yet certain of the project’s full cost” and “without a full accounting of BSO expenditures on the project, it is difficult to point to one singular cause for the cost overrun.”

The newly released audit comes as Sheriff Gregory Tony is asking commissioners for a significant budget increase for the next fiscal year, topping more than $1 billion.

A planned center

The center originally was supposed to cost $34 million, and the county set aside $33.2 million. The original plan had called for a seven-story building with five floors for a parking garage and two floors for a training center that included a parking garage at a combined 88,000 square feet.

But then costs rose as it got bigger.

The sheriff’s plan now is for the training center to stand alone at 104,000 square feet, along with a separate garage encompassing 245,000 square feet.

The training center will include two 50-yard tactical firing ranges, a 25-yard firing range, a shoot house, multiple classrooms, training labs, an auditorium, and a fitness center. The main entry will include a two-story memorial lobby that honors the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.

In a November email, Tony had expected the center to start being used in early January, telling staff, from colonels to captains, it would be when they would start exercising there at least three days a week. There’s been no new opening date yet announced.

Setting aside funds

According to the audit, the Sheriff’s Office’s contribution of $8.6 million to the project is funding previously appropriated by the county “for other purposes.”

The Sheriff’s Office told auditors that the budget transfers are surplus.

“In some cases, funds became available due to vacancies caused by natural employee attrition, in other cases, BSO had to defer filling vacant positions in order to reallocate funding as necessary to complete this project,” according to the audit.

The auditor’s office requested information from the Sheriff’s Office about what the monies were originally appropriated for, but the agency said that question “falls outside the parameters of the audit provisions of our agreement.” The Sheriff’s Office told the county to make a public records request, which it did on May 29, but hadn’t received the information.

A final auditor report is expected to be completed within the next two months and will include “opportunities for improvement and additional recommendations.”

The county also has contracted with a construction auditing firm to audit the detailed construction costs. That report will “be issued in the near future,” Melton wrote.

The County Commission will now hear the Sheriff’s Office budget request on Tuesday, June 18. (The initial meeting date was postponed due to the heavy rain.)

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at Follow on X, formerly Twitter, @LisaHuriash

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