Santa Barbara County took a major leap forward in its quest for a new North County Jail on Tuesday, the biggest it has made since officials first brought up the need in 1983.
The county has crafted a complicated funding scheme to show the state it has the funds necessary to be approved for an $80 million grant it received earlier this year. A shuffling of funds will allow Santa Barbara to pay the matching cost necessary to move forward, and the Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity to reassess where the money comes from in the future if need be.
The chance to move ahead on the jail with a big pile of money from the state was too much to turn down. “The need for additional jail space has never been greater, financial assistance to build the jail has never been richer, and the opportunity to do this has never been better,” Sheriff Bill Brown told the board before it voted unanimously to take the necessary steps. The proposal has the support of at least two former sheriffs, the District Attorney’s Office, the Probation Department, and police chiefs throughout the county.
The total cost of building the 376-bed facility is expected to be $96.1 million and, if the proposed schedule is followed, will commence in July 2015. The opening would be slated for March 2018. By then, Brown hopes that contributions the supervisors have begun to set aside from the county’s General Fund will have slowly accumulated to pay for ongoing operations of the jail, which will employ 118 people.