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Calaveras Sheriff’s Office, Jail advance

A new Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office is anticipated to open later this winter, followed by a state-of-the-art jail in the spring. 

As long as the sheriff’s building passes ongoing State Fire Marshal inspections, there is a “temporary certificate of occupancy”tentatively set for Jan. 23. That means the Sheriff’s Office can start the process of moving into its new 43,000-square-foot building near the county’s Government Center in San Andreas.

Calaveras County Sheriff Gary Kuntz said his department will move in phases. 

First, the department will move nearly 100,000 pieces of evidence and records followed by administrators, detectives, patrol deputies, support staff and finally dispatchers. 

“I don’t want to move everybody all at once,” he said. “That would be total chaos.” 

If everything goes as planned, officials say they expect to open the new Sheriff’s Office by mid-March and the jail about a month later once staff has been trained with new technology.

“I like to say we’re moving 50 years into the future,” Sheriff’s Capt. Ed Ballard said regarding the new technology. 

Despite construction delays, the long-awaited project is still expected to come within its $58 million budget. Funding for the project came from state funds and the sale of Measure J bonds approved by county voters in 2007. 

The new Calaveras County Jail and Sheriff’s Office complex is built next to the modern $45.4 million Calaveras County Courthouse, which was dedicated in November.

The new jail has a fully-enclosed tunnel connecting it to the basement of the courthouse. Inmates will walk through the tunnel to an elevator that will take them to a holding cell, where they’ll be escorted by a bailiff to a courtroom. 

The high-tech, two-story jail features more than 200 cameras, video courtroom arraignments and a “video visitation room.”

“It’s like Skyping,” Ballard said, referring to jail visitors who sit in the room and talk via a screen to inmates in their “housing pods.” 

The new 77,000-square-foot, 160-bed jail will replace the current 65-bed jail that totals only 14,500 square feet. 

During a tour of the still-under-construction jail on Monday, Ballard showed off the inmates color-coded living quarters as well as the booking area, sobering cells and large full-service kitchen where officials hope to eventually train inmates to learn culinary skills.

An outside space is also set aside for future inmate gardening projects, Ballard said.

“It’s going to be really nice,” said Kuntz, who plans to pull re-election papers this week. 

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