Fresno County supervisors are considering how to spend extra money, and it appears buildings are the main priority for now.
The county had about $11.5 million to set aside for projects based on carryover from last year’s budget.
Supervisors supported using the money for building projects or paying for other one-time costs. An additional $800,000 for a new county animal shelter was proposed, but it wasn’t approved. Supervisors will renew that discussion next month.
The most significant amount of extra funding will be used on the new West Annex Jail project. Initial estimates for the project are more than $8 million above the amount the county has set aside from state and local funds, about $88 million. The county is responsible for all costs over the $88 million.
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In initial discussions over the project’s estimated cost earlier this year, county officials learned the jail annex could cost $100 million or more to build, said Jean Rousseau, the county’s administrator.
After re-examining the costs, he said, it appears the county will need about $8.4 million more, which supervisors approved. The project will go out to bid later this year, and the cost will be better known after the bids come in early in 2017. It will take about two years to build the jail.
“We are hoping the $8.4 million will be more than enough to accommodate the bids when they come in,” Rousseau said.
The sheriff’s office also got $1.3 million, representing half of its carryover from last year, $300,000 for vehicle replacement and $200,000 to be used toward a second helicopter. An additional $800,000 is being used to make security improvements at the jail after the shooting of two corrections officers earlier this month.
We are hoping the $8.4 million will be more than enough to accommodate the bids when they come in.
Jean Rousseau, county administrative officer
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said an updated security plan isn’t completed yet. It may involve stationing more staff at the jail’s entrance or adding a metal detector, which requires two deputies to staff it. An extra person is on duty now.
“As soon as we get our security plan to the board we will have a better idea what our costs will be,” Mims said.
As part of the $8.4 million in additional jail funding, the project got $2.2 million from the District Attorney’s Office building account. That funding, from tobacco tax money, was replaced with the county funding to fully reimburse the District Attorney’s Office. The supervisors also set aside $320,784 for the district attorney’s building. The Probation Department also will get $233,192 as its office moves out of an old building near the closed juvenile hall site on 10th Street, Rousseau said.
About $200,000 went to the Public Defender’s Office and $100,000 each for homeless program clean-up activities and the county’s Human Resources Department.
For now, the county has $3.2 million set aside for the new animal control facility near Grantland Avenue and Highway 99. Derrel Ridenour has proposed to match the county’s funds with a donation in addition to the land, which he owns. He told the county he would increase his donation to $4 million if the county paid an equal amount.
While supportive of the new facility and the opportunity to leverage additional money, supervisors said they wanted to have further discussions before setting the money aside.
Rousseau said county officials are concerned that Ridenour may pull out of the project if the county doesn’t add $800,000 to its share of the project. He said that would leave the county with $3.2 million to build the shelter.
David Pomaville, the county’s health director, said Ridenour wants to build a shelter with enough space to operate efficiently. He said the cost is $400 per square foot for a top-notch facility.
Beyond construction, there are design costs, site preparation, utility hookups, surveying and consulting fees, he said.
The existing facility at the old morgue site at Teilman and Nielsen avenues takes in about 5,000 dogs per year, Pomaville said.
Supervisor Brian Pacheco said he supports the partnership with Ridenour and putting another $800,000 toward the project.
“This is an opportunity to partner in the public-private sector to build a very nice facility, or build four walls and a roof,” he said.
We have an exceptional offer from a member of the public, and we don’t get these investments too often.
Andreas Borgeas, Fresno County supervisor
Supervisor Andreas Borgeas added: “We have an exceptional offer from a member of the public, and we don’t get these investments too often.”
Supervisor Debbie Poochigian suggested the money could get used elsewhere, perhaps to offset higher employees’ insurance costs. Board Chairman Buddy Mendes said roads could be fixed and Rousseau mentioned tree mortality.
SEIU representative Teneya Johnson told supervisors that insurance costs take up 42 percent of pay for some employees.
Rousseau said the county gave employees a $10 per pay period raise to offset higher insurance rates in July, an amount he acknowledges doesn’t cover the costs.
“It’s a step in the right direction. Is it enough? No,” Rousseau said. “We have to do the best we can for our employees, but we have to live within these limits.”
In other action, supervisors approved raises for 14 department heads: 11 went up 5 percent and three others increased 2 percent.
Mendes said several department heads don’t make much more money than their assistants.
“We’ve actually had a problem where upper management people didn’t want to take a department head position because it was basically a lateral move in pay with a lot more responsibility.”
Top Fresno County administrators
Fresno County supervisors approved raises for 14 department heads, effective Sept. 26.
County Administrative Officer
Director of Public Works & Planning
Director of Social Services
Chief Probation Officer
Director of Behavioral Health
Director of Internal Services/CIO
Director of Human Resources
Director of Public Health
Director of Child Support