Funding Efforts Fall Short Again in San Mateo County

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California State Senator Jerry Hill’s proposal to obtain funding for an estimated $150 million replacement jail facility in San Mateo County failed for a second time on Sept. 12. The first attempt, made this past August, did not make it past the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Hill’s bill would have favored the $165 million San Mateo County Jail over other projects for state funding because of its advanced stage in the planning process. While many counties vying for funding were only in the conceptual phase, San Mateo’s design was ready for construction.

This is not the first time San Mateo County has faced issues gaining funding from the state. Various restrictions and requirements seem to keep pushing the county out of the running. Stipulations such as housing state inmates and facing competing counties with larger inmate populations impede San Mateo County’s strive for funding. The county was excluded from another attempt at attaining funding because the construction project had already begun.

After facing several defeats, Hill stated that he believed the state was approaching the issue the wrong way. “It’s the wrong-headed approach. If you’re doing a good job, you ought not to be punished,” he commented.

Hill resolved to keep fighting for funding and approached the committee again this month to resubmit his proposal. This bill was different than the original one he submitted: Hill proposed that the state money San Joaquin County declined should be redistributed to Monterey and Sonoma counties. He also proposed that Yuba, Colusa and Sutter counties be allowed to co-construct juvenile detention facilities, and requested that San Mateo County not be immediately disqualified from funding requests due to the advanced stage in the county’s construction project.

This time, however, his bill did not even garner enough support to gain a motion in the committee. Hill’s main argument against prioritizing conceptual projects is that they don’t show a quick enough turnaround. Projects in the early stages of planning aren’t required to demonstrate financial need or a proposed site to the state until 2017. This results in a long wait period before any real work begins, whereas San Mateo’s project is already successfully underway.

San Mateo County’s jail is a three-story jail with 40 extra feet of unfinished space that can be used in the future if necessary. The cost of the site property was $17 million, with an estimated $40 million in yearly operational costs. The new jail is located in Redwood City.

Although Hill struggled to find support in the committee, San Mateo County is working on other plans to keep the project moving forward. The county is expected to issue a number of bonds soon, and John Maltbie, County Manager, will produce a financing plan soon.

Despite the numerous setbacks, Hill remains positive: “My experience in Sacramento is that you never say never. There’s always an ability somehow, somewhere.”

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