Mega Project Takes Shape

STOCKTON, Calif. — With the slated completion date still about 18 months away, construction is buzzing on the site of the $900 million California Health Care Facility near Stockton, Calif.

Though the majority of the work to date on the 144-acre site in San Joaquin County has been grading and underground utilities, general contractor Clark/McCarthy has approximately 120 employees and subcontractors on site busy constructing the medical prison’s 31 main buildings.

Clark/McCarthy’s contract on the project is valued at $512 million. Granite Hensel Phelps Joint Venture is the other general contractor on the project and responsible for grading, parking areas, armory, the lethal guard fence and guard towers. Granite Hensel Phelps contract is $129 million.

With the number of construction workers predicted to swell to approximately 1,200 by this July, at this point the central utilities plant is beginning to take shape, which will provide water, heating and cooling in addition to electricity. The central plant is extremely important as it must be completed before the other buildings can be built.

“There’s about a million dollars of work per calendar day that we have put in place,” says Mike Ricker, vice president of Clark/McCarthy.

As well, this huge project will provide nearly 5,500 construction jobs and generate more than $1 billion in economic output to this area that badly needs a jolt. Just last November, Stockton and the county had an unemployment rate of 15.5 percent — one of the highest in the country.

When completed, the 1.2 million square foot facility will provide long-term medical and mental health care to 1,722 state prisoners. Approximately 2,400 civil service jobs in over 160 job classifications will be created with an annual payroll in excess of $220 million.

A third phase of the project, worth more than $120 million, is the renovation and new construction at the adjoining and unused DeWitt Nelson Youth Correctional Facility to serve mental health patients, is to come later.

“This is huge in terms of dollar investment in our city, in our county and in our community,” says Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston. “Even more importantly, it’s offering the jobs to our local folks who need work. I think that’s one of the positives of this whole effort. The chamber, city and the county worked very hard with CDCR to get an agreement that when this facility came in, it would benefit all of us. This is probably the largest entity that has brought in jobs in a very long time.”

Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Wilhoit calls the project “a real win-win” even though the chamber, city of Stockton and San Joaquin County initially sued the state over the steps to ease the project’s impact. However, he says that is now clearly in the past after agreements were reached to provide local sales tax revenues on materials used in the prison and a secure medical facility built to treat prisoners at San Joaquin General Hospital.

“The most important thing is the friendship that has developed between the CDCR, the general contractors and the community,” says Wilhoit.

CDCR has also been working with the Stockton and San Joaquin community to ensure that a Contractors Local Hire Outreach Program is implemented by the design/build contractors to provide jobs to local residents. California Prison Health Care Services has also entered into a multi-year contract with San Joaquin General Hospital for care not available at the new CHCF facility. Patient-inmates will be housed in a separate guarded unit at the hospital.

And, in a partnership with Delta Community College, and with funding from California Prison Health Care Services, the college intends to expand its accredited psychiatric technician program aid in filling required CHCF positions. It will also ramp up its program over the next several years, enrolling 270 students during the contract term. At present the first class of 40 students graduated in December.