Lewis Griswold

Tulare County jail project in Porterville will add 510 beds

A new jail is being built in Tulare County, finally allowing the Sheriff’s Department to think about shutting down the aging Main Jail in Visalia.

Groundbreaking for the South County Detention Facility in Porterville will take place at 9 a.m. on June 8.

The 510-bed jail will cover 10 to 15 acres of a 75-acre parcel north of the Porterville Airport. It should take two years to build.

The jail will reduce inmate transportation costs.

“Forty-four percent of the jail population comes from the south county,” Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said.

There are about 1,800 inmates in Tulare County, most of them at the Bob Wiley Correctional Facility and the Tulare County Pre-Trial Facility north of Visalia.

When the new jail is ready, those arrested in the south county will be housed there and face trial at the South County Justice Center in Porterville.

It will be easier for family members from the south county to visit inmates, Boudreaux said. It’s expected that there will be a bus stop at the jail.

The $66 million project is being paid for by $60 million from the state under the AB 900 jail construction legislation passed several years ago. Tulare County is putting $6.6 million into the project.

About 96 deputies will be hired to staff the new jail, to be phased in over three to five years, Boudreaux said.

When the south county jail is fully in use, it may be possible to close the aging 272-bed Tulare County Main Jail in Visalia, Boudreaux said.

SHUTTLE SEASON: Shuttle season has started at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The Sequoia Shuttle from Visalia to Sequoia National Park launched its summer season Thursday and is now in its 10th year.

Big Trees Transit from Fresno, Sanger and Squaw Valley to Kings Canyon National Park launched Saturday. It is in its second year.

The Sequoia Shuttle has 16 seats; Big Trees Transit buses have 18 seats. They’re wheelchair accessible and have bike racks. Students, hikers, backpackers, families and senior citizens use the shuttles.

Last summer, Sequoia Shuttle ferried 484,000 passengers to the park, the National Park Service said. A figure for Big Trees Transit was not immediately available.

The parks supports the shuttles because they reduce the number of cars entering the parks, keeping down air pollution.

The usual cost is $15 round trip, but it’s $10 through Monday for Big Trees Transit; $10 on weekdays Monday through June 10 for the Sequoia Shuttle; and $10 on the 10th of each month through September for Sequoia Shuttle.

Tickets purchased online have guaranteed seating.

VERBEEK HONOR: Lance Cpl. Jared C. Verbeek, a Marine from Visalia who died in Afghanistan in 2011, will have his name on the windshield of a NASCAR Sprint Cup car on Sunday at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

“CPL VERBEEK” will on the windshield of driver Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 83 Toyota.

Under a NASCAR program to honor the armed forces, all 40 cars in Sunday’s race will have the name of a fallen service member on the windshield.

Verbeek’s family is scheduled to be at the race, which will be broadcast on Fox 26 at 3 p.m.

Lewis Griswold covers the news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com, @fb_LewGriswold