With a specific set of guidelines and obligations required by the state that make an already complicated process that much more complex, Santa Barbara officials are moving forward on a plan for a new North County Jail. The jail, which officials say has been needed for decades because of overcrowding, is expected to cost more than $90 million. Of that, however, $80 million will come from the state under AB 900.
If everything runs on schedule, construction on the 376-bed facility on county-owned property will finish in 2018. Part of the requirement from the state is that the jail be operational upon completion, a major challenge for Santa Barbara officials. The jail is expected to cost $17 million a year to run, and the supervisors are still working on a way to pay for the operational costs, though they have been setting aside funds each year.
Before the state starts paying the county chunks of the $80 million, the county will have to loan itself money to get the project going, then the state will reimburse the county. By November, Sheriff Bill Brown hopes to have spent $9.3 million on the project and to have a more definitive plan in place at that point.