Officials Approve $5 Million More in Funding for SoCal Jail Build

By CN Staff

SANTA MARIA, Calif.— The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors recently approved an additional $5 million in contingency funding for the construction of the Northern Branch Jail near Santa Maria.

This project has taken much longer and cost millions of dollars more than expected, which is why the County Board approved this funding on March 17, 2020.

Noozhawk recently reported that bids for the 376-bed facility came in 17 percent higher than the engineer’s estimate, so the initial budget was increased to $110.8 million from $96.1 million. The state contributed $80 million in grant funding.

With the extra contingency funding approved, the total project cost is now an estimated $119 million to $121 million, said Skip Grey, Assistant Director of the General Services Department in a statement.

The $5 million will come from the Northern Branch Jail Operating Fund that the county has been steadily contributing to, working toward the looming costs of running the new jail and the existing Main Jail in the South County.

At present, the jail project is 98 percent complete, said Grey, and the Sheriff’s Department is expecting to start accepting inmates at this site in September.

Construction delays have been caused by numerous factors. For instance, architectural and engineering design firm, Rosser International Inc., left the job before the end of the contract, Noozhawk reported.

Also, an earthwork subcontractor refused to execute its contract, so the county had to find another one.

Additionally, weather affected the construction schedule and there were material procurement delays. Grey said that the contractor, SJ Amoroso Construction Company Inc. “struggled a bit with the coordination of the work.”

“As a result, to date, the county has awarded SJA a 175-day time extension. This was needed to address delays attributable to errors and omissions included in the project’s plans and specifications,” General Services staff wrote in a report to the Board of Supervisors.

More design amendments were due to regulatory agency compliance changes, such as adding smoke dampers throughout the building and altering inmate shower doors “to reduce ligature risk.”