Sheriff Bill Brown

Paul Wellman (file)

Sheriff Bill Brown

Jail Funding a ‘Moving Target’?

Supervisors Question Sheriff Over Fluctuating Dollar Figures

Thursday, July 10, 2014
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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.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Let's not forget the long term pension obligation for these new positions, full benefits, maintenance and operations of the facility. Nice the Sherrif isn't held accountable for overspending his budget.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 8:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The jail is OK. Staffing it is completely unaffordable.

Botany (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 8:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

$18 million every year for a pork project.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 9:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To use an analogy from physics, the event threshold of a black hole appears from a distance to be static and stable, but the closer you get to it the more dynamic and shifting the reality becomes. This Sheriff's Department and especially the North County Jail is a sucking black hole of public treasure. Think about it, we could use that money to succor the poor, improve infrastructure, invest in a major public works project that could enhance our water supplies or make our electricity more reliable. But no, instead we are going to spend it on housing criminals and paying salaries and retirement benefits for their keepers. Really? Is this the best use of the community's treasure? Once some out of town contractor (who may hire some local carpenters and buy local concrete) finishes this project, all economic benefit for the County will disappear. The guards will commute from wherever they have their 5,000 square foot houses and children either enrolled in charter schools or home schooled. The facility will continue to drain the County's resources at ever growing amounts year after year. The criminals will serve their time, get out, and commit crimes again, only to return to our new jail, which will soon enough grow old and start falling apart and need to be remodeled at millions of dollars of cost. So it goes.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
July 10, 2014 at 9:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's hope for once Bill Brown has over estimated his numbers. Sadly, I fear this will, once again, be the case.

As we all know too well, he has a history of doing end-runs around all in his path from the voters to the Board of Supes. when it comes to getting what he wants. He simply can NEVER be wrong.

That's a costly & regrettable mistake we'll look back on when he's wallowing in his pork barrel retirement in Bora Bora or on his own island.

Barron (anonymous profile)
July 11, 2014 at 12:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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