County needs $2.3 million more to complete women's jail expansion

clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 1, 2013 

San Luis Obispo County will have to come up with another $2.3 million to complete a long-planned expansion of the women’s jail.

The increased cost — which brings the county’s total share of the project to about $13.6 million — is mainly due to some additional upgrades required for a new security system to serve the entire jail complex.

The county Board of Supervisors heard an update on the women’s jail project last week, and today will consider whether to award a $2.14 million contract for construction management services.

County officials said the new facility is sorely needed to ease overcrowding in the women’s section of the jail. The women’s facility was built for 43 inmates, but often houses double that number.

Besides a new housing unit, the project also includes more room for programs and classes, a medical facility for both male and female inmates and a security system.

If there’s enough money, the county may also remodel the jail’s existing intake and release center, and the sally port, a secure area where arrested persons arrive before heading to the intake area.

But cost estimates have increased in the past five years, during which time concerns about state funding prompted county officials to place the project on hold. It was re-started in February 2011.

An estimate in 2007 pegged the cost of the housing unit, medical facility and security system at $36.4 million, said said John Evans, director of civil engineering at Cannon, a San Luis Obispo firm hired in December to provide project management services.

The updated estimate is $38.7 million. (The optional upgrades to the intake facility and sally port would add another $7.6 million to the cost.)

The security system upgrade will require new cameras and cables to be installed, which in part has increased the cost, said General Services Agency Director Janette Pell.

A $25.1 million state grant will cover the bulk of the cost, but the county will pick up the rest. County officials hope to solicit bids over the summer and award a contract for construction in the fall, and for the new facility to be finished by March 2016.

The county has already set aside $7 million for the project, and plans on spending about $1.3 million for “in-kind services” such as staff time working on the project. The rest of the money could come from various reserves, Pell said.

“This is an estimate and we will know (the costs) much better when we get the construction bids back,” she said. “From the county’s perspective, the state is giving us $25.1 million and we may not get this opportunity again, so the county will look long and hard at trying to find that money … because the overcrowding is not going to go away and the security needs are not going to go away.”

However, county supervisors sounded concerned during an update on the project on March 26.

“It’s frustrating to have to deal with this increased cost estimate,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said. “This project has had a few bumps in the road, but we’re kind of squeezed; we have to do this project.”

Today, supervisors will consider awarding a contract for construction management services for the project to Arcadis of California. The company is an international consultancy, design, engineering and management services firm that has offices in Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo.

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