Tulare County loses out on nearly $7 million in state jail funding

The Fresno BeeMarch 13, 2014 

Tulare County officials will have to revise plans to build a new jail after a state board Thursday shifted $6.65 million to a project in Stanislaus County.

The California Board of State and Community Corrections approved an appeal that sends a portion of Tulare County's funding to Stanislaus County.

Tulare County was in line to get $40 million for its project but will now get $33.35 million. As a result of Thursday's vote, Stanislaus County gets the $40 million in state funds.

The shuffle also means San Joaquin County, which was originally awarded $33.35 million, gets no money.

Stanislaus County had scored higher than Tulare County but a "technical error" on environmental documentation caused its project to drop off the list of qualified finalists.

After Stanislaus County appealed the initial award decision, a subcommittee of the state board on Tuesday recommended altering the finalist list. On Thursday, the full board met and voted 9-3 to raise Stanislaus County's funding status.

Tulare County won't be able to return for funding next year, but the county could get full funding if another medium-sized county is unable to undertake its project, said Linda Penner, Board of State and Community Corrections chairwoman and former Fresno County probation chief.

Other medium-sized counties awarded funds for jail construction are Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Solano.

"If another county drops out or didn't go forward, their partial funding could go back to full," Penner said after the meeting.

She said Tulare County also could change the scope of its project to reduce costs.

Tulare County is proposing a $44.4 million jail that includes a $4.4 million county match. The new lockup would have 388 beds at Sequoia Field near its existing facility, which has 302 beds.

Inmates would be housed in small groups. The new facility will include classrooms for education, behavioral therapy and vocational instruction. There also is space for cells to segregate inmates from the general population.

Tulare County officials do not yet have a plan for a scaled-down project, said Jean Rousseau, county administrative officer.

"The team that we put together will need to huddle up and talk about what it means to our project to have $6.5 million less," he said. "I think we are a ways from doing that."

The plan to replace the jail remains intact, he said.

"This is a good opportunity to get state money to take care of a local project," Rousseau said. "It's just not going to be as big as we hoped it would be, but we still feel good about the award."

Two other counties, Monterey and Humboldt, filed appeals but were turned down for funding.

Thursday's decision affects only projects in medium-sized counties.

Among large counties, Fresno County was awarded $79.2 million for a new $88 million jail project. Kings County got $20 million for a $21.05 million jail project in the small-counties category.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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