Pedro says funding for new jail still possible

Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat /

Tuolumne County missed out on a recent wave of state grants but has a number of options to get some help with building a new jail that county leaders say is necessary, according to the county's chief administrator.

County Administrator Craig Pedro said Tuesday there might be some remaining, unused funds from Assembly Bill 900 grants awarded for other county jail projects. He also told the county Board of Supervisors that a new program under state Senate Bill 1022 could allow for grant funds of up to $20 million for a local jail project.

"We're talking $40 million-plus, potentially," Pedro said of possibly receiving funds from both programs. "That's the strategy we're thinking about putting out there."

Both AB 900 and SB 1022 funded county jail construction around the state. Tuolumne County submitted applications for two separate phases of funding and received a "meager" amount of money that county leaders eventually turned down in the first phase and was not awarded a grant in the second.

Pedro said despite missing out on jail funds through the program, there could be a chance if another county ends up being unable to complete construction and pulls out of the program. Siskiyou County was the last to receive an award, but has asked for more time to complete required steps to get its $24 million grant, he said.

"If a county like Siskiyou ends up not being able to deliver … Tuolumne County is the next county in line," Pedro said.

The current, 140-bed county jail is considered outdated and in need of replacement.

However, Pedro and county supervisors have said on multiple occasions that the $48 million project will likely need a significant amount of grant money before it can move forward. Another option for funding would be a general obligation bond approved by voters.

Planners have already scaled back the jail proposal from an $85 million, 93,334-square-foot building to a 77,991-square-foot facility with 240 beds. The plan calls for the new jail to be built at the new Law and Justice Center site at Old Wards Ferry Road, where a new juvenile jail, courthouse and law enforcement headquarters are planned to go.

Pedro's update on the jail came during a presentation on the Board of Supervisors' annual board goals. Every year, the Board comes up with a series of long-term projects, legislative wish lists and other goals for the year. The new board, whichincludes new supervisors Karl Rodefer and Sherri Brennan, will likely complete its 2013 goals later this month.

In other news, the Board of Supervisors:

• Scheduled a special, closed session meeting for Feb. 1 to interview the next county counsel. The board will interview finalists for most of the day, with a new attorney expected to begin work in mid-March.

• Authorized the county seek a real estate agent to market the former National Guard Armory at the Columbia Airport, which the county owns.

• Did not discuss a possible settlement over the Red Tail Ridge lawsuit. The item was pulled from the agenda before the meeting, and will likely be discussed later this month.

• Accepted approximately $120,000 in state grant funds for upgrades to county school buses. The money was set to go toward projects in Modoc County, but that county was unable to spend the money on its projects.

• Agreed to set the minimum measurement for green waste at the Cal Sierra Earth Resource Facility to one-half cubic yard. A proposal considered by the board last month would have set the minimum measurement at one yard, meaning even customers with less than a half-yard would be charged the full yard rate.

The Union Democrat
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