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ORLANDO-This isn’t your conventional tenant-property owner scenario but it is an industrial real estate leasing situation of sorts since it involves rent and bed space.

Orange County, which takes in Orlando and a dozen other smaller municipalities, has been renting 160 jail beds in neighboring Lake County for $22 per inmate per day for the past two years. Now, however, Orange has reduced its inmate count to 3,700 from 4,250 and no longer needs the additional space.

Next month, Orange is moving 160 inmates back to Orlando from Tavares, FL, the county seat and home of the 982-bed Lake County jail. The move means Lake County will be losing $2 million in rent–$350,000 for the remainder of this fiscal year which ends Sept. 30 and $1.4 million in 2003.

The move may cripple Lake County’s projected budget for 2003. “We’re scrambling right now, alerting other counties in the state that we have bed and cell space to rent,” a county staffer tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “You can bet our budget department people are taking this very seriously.”

The county already has started advertising its available bed space to all of the 65 other counties in the state. The space is class A caliber, “of course,” a jail deputy tells GlobeSt.com.

In a county with a permanent population of only 250,000 and 1,400 lakes, the Lake County Department of Corrections and Sheriff’s Office, headed by George E. Knupp Jr., are one of the area’s largest employers and their activities represent big business.

For example, the Department of Corrections budget for 2002 is 13.2 million, up 4.9% from $12.6 million in 2001. The Sheriff’s Office has a budget of $17.4 million, up 7.97% from $16.1 million last year. And the bailiff’s department budget has gone from $966,579 in 2001 to $1 million this year, a 6.61% increase.

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