Sheriff Bill Brown

Paul Wellman (file)

Sheriff Bill Brown

Jail Funding a ‘Moving Target’?

Supervisors Question Sheriff Over Fluctuating Dollar Figures

The Board of Supervisors this week officially authorized Sheriff Bill Brown to snatch the $39 million check the state dangled months ago to cover the construction costs for the recidivism-reducing wing Brown wants to accompany the planned North County Jail. In making his case for the cash, Brown presented his “best estimate” for the wing’s staffing and operating costs, but cautioned ​— ​to some of the supervisors’ chagrin ​— ​that those figures could fluctuate.

Dubbed the Sheriff’s Transition and Reentry (STAR) Complex, the 52,208-square-foot wing will provide beds and transitional services for 228 inmates. Brown said he envisions the facility offering, among other programs, educational partnerships with Allan Hancock Community College and reading lessons through the United Way, with special privileges including more hours of recreation and visitation. The wing represents somewhat “uncharted territory” statewide, Brown said, but will allow those who live there to become “productive members of society rather than burdens on society.”

Brown said he needs 26 custody deputies ​— ​21 transferred from the existing jail, five new hires ​— ​and four custody sergeants, who will be promoted from their current positions, to staff the complex. (With the opening of the entire North County Jail campus will come the closing of the existing jail’s Medium Security Facility and three of its male housing units.) Running the entirety of the North County Jail campus could cost nearly $18 million every year, an increase of about $600,000 from the estimate Brown made in June.

Brown said he’ll be looking at how to bring that number down, but he didn’t escape the frustrations of Supervisor Janet Wolf, who called the numbers a “moving target,” and Supervisor Doreen Farr, who took issue with the projections coming without a schematic design of the facility, which won’t be ready in time for Brown’s next presentation on the facility in the fall. The main portion of the new jail should open in early 2018, but the STAR complex could be a year behind that schedule.

In September, the board will consider whether or not to use a project stabilization agreement (PSA) to source contractors for the construction, expected to start next June, of the main portion of the new jail. Dozens of public speakers spoke on both sides of the issue, with those in favor of the deal saying it would guarantee the hiring of regional workers and those against it countering it would unfairly benefit union contractors.

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