Union Democrat staff

Build it and they will come.

The treasured line from the movie "Field of Dreams" has a double meaning in Calaveras County, where two important construction projects are moving forward.

Yes, the county's inmates will come to the new, 280-bed jail in San Andreas - although few will be happy there is suddenly room at the new inn.

And students will certainly come to Columbia College's proposed

satellite campus in Angels Camp, and they will delighted to do so.

There was progress on both projects last week, and the Calaveras

County supervisors and the Yosemite Community College District trustees

should be commended for keeping the ball rolling during these hard

economic times.

Actually, those hard times have played into the hands of the Calaveras Sheriff's Office.

Because of dropping building costs and competition among

contractors for the few large projects actually going to bid, the

county will get a lot more bang for its buck.

Or, more accurately, more bang for its 59 million bucks.

Earlier, when the construction picture was not so favorable, the

cash would only build 114,000 square feet and the project was cut back

accordingly. But, based on more recent cost estimates, $59 million will

build all of the original 130,000 sq. ft. project, and it has been

upscaled accordingly.

Now the jail, once 65,000 gross square feet, is back to 76,537. And

the adjacent sheriff's administration building, earlier 38,000, is back

to 41,463, And a dormitory for lower-risk inmates, is up 1,000 feet to


With a project nearly ready to build, Calaveras County is poised to

take advantage of an economic climate that is nowhere near as kind to

most other builders.

The reason? According to Capt. Ed Ballard, much of the credit goes

to citizens who in 2007 approved Measure J, a $31 million jail bond


Almost as much should go to Sheriff Dennis Downum, Ballard and

other project planners, whose tireless lobbying have put the Calaveras

job among the top three jail projects in line for state funding.

It all leads to the conclusion that there may be justice after all.

Because with a 47-year-old jail that can house just 65 inmates, what

California county needs a new lockup more than Calaveras?

Under current plans, jail complex bids will be asked next February, with completion slated for December of 2012.

The schedule for construction of Columbia College's Calaveras

campus is nowhere near as certain, but the college board took a giant

step last week: It bought a 5.9-acre campus site on Murphys Grade Road

for $615,000.

The Angels Camp acreage is in the heart of southern Calaveras County, which is within the Yosemite District boundaries.

The purchase solidifies the college's presence north of the Stanislaus River.

Now Columbia offers a two-year program of classes at Bret Harte

High School and earlier it had a storefront classrooms at the Glory

Hole Center on Highway 49 north of Angels. But the Murphys Grade campus

will be the real deal.

A $10 million slice of Measure E, a $326 million bond issue passed

by college district voters in 2004, has been earmarked for the

Calaveras campus. And preliminary plans called for more than

19,000-square feet of classrooms and other buildings on the campus.

The district's satellite campus plan is among the final Measure E

projects to launch and now may be the perfect time to move it along.

Because, as the Calaveras Sheriff's Office learned, there are some

pretty good construction deals out there.