It was a promising idea, but it turns out that the former youth correctional facility in Paso Robles is not a good fit for a regional jail.
The fledgling proposal was to partner with Kings and Monterey counties on a 200-bed overflow jail, but it would have cost too much to retrofit the boys school for adult offenders, not to mention the millions of dollars it would have cost annually to operate such a facility.
That’s unfortunate — we encourage consolidation of government facilities whenever possible — but better to reject an unworkable plan now than to sink money into expensive feasibility studies.
With the jail ano-go — and with the state definitely ruling out the prison complex that had once been proposed for the property — that leaves the sprawling, 160-acre parcel up for grabs.
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Paso Robles officials have thrown out several suggestions: a youth training program, auxiliary facilities to augment the local airport, low-income housing are a few. Some have broached the idea of offering “safe parking” and other homeless services there. Recently, agroup began promoting a charter high school at the site.
Another thought: Although the state has rejected building a prison “campus” on the property, it would still be a good spot for afire camp for low-risk inmates.
Whatever the future holds for the property, we hope it doesn’t sit vacant for years, becoming, in the words of county Supervisor Frank Mecham, “a big white elephant, gathering weeds and dust.”
To prevent that, we urge the state to move forward as expeditiously as possible with the marketing and sale of the property. The longer these buildings sit vacant, the more they will deteriorate and the less likely they’ll be of value to a future buyer.