Lewis Griswold

Griswold: Kings County to start jail construction

Construction of the Kings County jail addition in Hanford is slated to begin July 28.

Officials say the 252-bed project will relieve overcrowding caused by prison realignment.

It's believed to be the first jail to break ground under phase two of AB900, the jail construction law of 2007.

Meanwhile, other new jails in the region are in the planning stages.

In Tulare County, a jail in Porterville has $60 million in state funding, and Fresno County learned in March that it had been awarded about $80 million for a jail downtown.

Madera County opened a 144-bed jail addition last year.

Jail officials say overcrowding is related to prison realignment in which lower-level felons serve time in county jails rather than state prisons.

"Our population has more than doubled since realignment," Kings County Assistant Sheriff Robert Thayer said.

Today, the jail has about 600 inmates -- 500 men and 100 women. Three years ago, the average population was 280.

About one-third are serving time for non-violent, non-sex and non-serious crimes such as illegal drug sales, possession of drugs, burglary and auto theft; some are in for violation of parole.

Most of the rest are awaiting trial or sentencing on felonies, Thayer said.

The state is paying $33 million toward the $40.5 million project, while the county is covering the balance with developer fees and jail construction bonds.

Construction is scheduled to conclude in December 2015 and the addition is forecast to open in April 2016.

There will be six housing units with cells, and two units where inmates share a large room but don't live in cells. The project will include an intake area and a 12-bed infirmary.

The overall jail population will remain unchanged after the addition opens because the existing jail traditionally holds fewer people. Because of the need to house more inmates after realignment, jailers installed double and triple bunks in the day rooms, which will be removed.

Meanwhile, other jail-related construction in Kings County has begun: A holding cell project and a tunnel to the new Kings County Superior Court courthouse, which is also under construction.

INTERIM: Steve Salomon, formerly city manager of Visalia, has agreed to serve as interim city manager of Brentwood, the EastCountyToday news website reported last week.

Salomon retired from Visalia last year and lives in Brentwood in the east Bay Area.

The position is expected to last six months while the City Council searches for a permanent city manager.