The Board of Supervisors is set to discuss proposed revisions to the budget for the North County Jail project in their meeting on Tuesday, as the project trudges into the New Year tens of millions of dollars over budget and months behind schedule. While initial bids for the project were in the range of $77 million, current estimates place the number at around $111 million. The county blames the project’s financial woes in part on contractor Rosser International, which abruptly went out of business in July 2019 with the project only 80 percent completed.
The agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting states that budget revision requests include $1,856,700 in additional funds to account for increased construction costs that are the result of the fact that “projections from the contractor and the project did not progress at the pace that was anticipated,” according to John Greene, the senior project manager for the project. Greene also said that the budget revision will adjust budgeted expenditures “in FY2019/20 from $8,168,000 to $10,024,700.”
The North County Jail is the central legacy of Sheriff Bill Brown, who says that the new jail is necessary to address concerns about overcrowding and inadequate facilities at the current county jail in South County. The South County jail has been the subject of serious allegations of abusive practices and deteriorating conditions for inmates. The criminal justice advocacy group Disability Rights California slammed the county jail in a 2016 study, calling the facility’s conditions “inhumane” and “unsanitary.” The report also condemned the jail for excessive use of solitary confinement, a practice that has been criticized as cruel and counterproductive by social justice groups.
Sheriff Brown has said the new facility will address many of those concerns by alleviating the problem of overcrowding that has affected county jails after California’s realignment initiative transferred scores of prisoners from state prisons to county jails. In 2017, the South County Jail’s population was 120 percent of capacity. The North County Jail is expected to be completed in June 2020.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that cuts to Behavioral Wellness programs were under consideration, but that is not the case.