Board OKs Quarter-Billion-Dollar Jail Expansion Budget

RIVERSIDE – Riverside County supervisors today authorized a $274 million budget for construction and other costs associated with the East County Detention Center in Indio, a top-line item on the county’s list of capital improvement priorities, but still years away from completion.

In a 4-0 vote — with Supervisor John Tavaglione absent — the Board of Supervisors without comment signed off on the tentative ECDC spending plan and approved hiring a contractor to complete demolition work required before construction can begin.

According to Economic Development Agency documents posted to the board’s policy agenda, the timetable for detention center construction remains in flux because of the various state planning approvals that have to be received before the first load of concrete can be poured.

Currently, EDA officials are predicting a start date of spring 2015. However, the county is seeking to jump ahead and wrap up the design phase of the project as well as select a contractor before the State Public Works Board finishes vetting all of the plans, which could put shovels in the ground as early as July 2014.

The jail is expected to take about two years to construct.

The facility will have 1,626 inmate beds, dramatically larger than the current Indio Jail at 82675 Highway 111, which has only 353 beds. According to EDA documents, the detention center will have an on-site health clinic, classrooms, recreation yards, a video visitation room, a full-service kitchen and a ”special housing unit” for inmates with ”conditions requiring separation from other inmates … and those with a need for healthcare support.”

Construction of the ECDC will necessitate off-site infrastructure improvements, including a storm drain and other modifications along Highway 111, between Arabia and Smurr streets, according to the EDA.

The county received a $100 million state grant, which covers about a third of project costs. The balance will have to be paid from the county general fund, though officials noted a bond issuance would be the most appropriate funding mechanism.

Meantime, demolition of structures and other site preparation can move ahead as planned. The board today selected Riverside-based Hal Hays Construction Inc. to manage clear-away operations and begin laying slabs for the future detention center. Hays was chosen following a bidding process during which a total 26 prospective contractors competed for the work. Hays provided the ”lowest responsive and responsible” bid, documents state.

The site preparation project budget is $8.25 million, of which $6.27 million will go to Hays, according to the EDA.

Work is expected to get underway just after the new year.

The Board of Supervisors has put jail expansion and construction projects at the forefront of county priorities due to concerns over ongoing inmate early releases and a correspondent increase in crime.

The county has 3,906 inmate beds at its five detention facilities. But according to a report released in September, an additional 10,000 beds will be required over the next decade to keep pace with demand for correctional space.

The total number of early inmate releases was projected to be 9,276 by Dec. 31, the report said.

In 2012, Sheriff Stan Sniff released 6,990 inmates from the county jails — an unprecedented number, he said — because there wasn’t enough room for them. A 20-year-old federal court order mandates that the county have a jail bed for every detainee or selectively release inmates to make room for incoming ones.

County officials argue conditions have been exacerbated by Assembly Bill 109, also known as the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011. Under the law, so-called ”non-serious, non-violent” offenders convicted of felonies that do not stem from a sexual offense are to serve their sentences in local detention facilities instead of state prison.

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