Work on $56 million Jail Resumes

SAN ANDREAS, Calif. — Design work recently resumed on a Calaveras County jail project after county officials gave the green light to the $56 million project that had been at a standstill for more than two months.
County supervisors unanimously lifted the hold on the stalled 240-bed project following the easing of fears about the state’s ability to fund its $26 million portion of the project’s total costs.
The ongoing economic recession in the United States as well as California’s deepening fiscal crisis and deteriorating credit rating had prompted concerned local officials to suspend activity until the funding issues could be resolved. Supervisors and other officials were not prepared to assume the financial risk of investing the several million dollars necessary to move design work forward as the county could not afford to build the jail without the state’s financial support, according to reports.
Although a degree of concern remains even in the wake of the recent upgrade of the state’s rating on the bond markets, supervisors were given assurances during discussions with state representatives that the state would be able to raise the requisite funds through the sale of bonds, officials say.
Officials had also expressed concerns about the county’s ability to fund the increased operational costs associated with the new facility.
The delay should not greatly impact the progress on the project, which includes a 160-bed jail, an 80-bed dormitory annex, and a new administration building for the sheriff’s office. The project is scheduled for completion by 2013.
The existing 65-bed jail is consistently at capacity and releases hundreds of inmates annually who haven’t served their sentences. That means drug users and other repeat offenders have little incentive to cooperate with treatment programs that could steer them away from crime.
The county ruled out construction of a smaller, less expansive facility on the basis that it would not deliver a sufficient number of additional beds to meet future growth in the inmate population. In approving the jail construction measure in 2007, voters anticipated the new jail would adequately meet the needs of the community for several decades.
More importantly, the state’s award of matching funds to the Calaveras jail project through AB900 (a multibillion prison and jail construction legislation passed by state lawmakers in 2007) was in large part based on the understanding the county would build a large community re-entry facility to house state inmates prior to release.