Women’s jail expansion still on track

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors agreed this week to spend more than $1.4 million from its capital projects fund to keep expansion of the women’s jail moving forward.

The $1,432,117 will go toward hiring a construction management consultant as well as architectural and engineering consultants, in addition to financing such relatively minor services as moving power poles. This expense is on top of $2.5 million spent already.

The total projected cost is $33.5 million, a number that could change.

“The current funding allocated to the project is nearly expended,” according to a staff report from Katie Perez, deputy director of the general services division.

The new expenditure was designed to keep the project on track and to help satisfy requirements of a $25.1 million state grant.

It is the latest in a series of moves that began in 1999, when the county decided to attack the problem of overcrowding at the women’s facility.The current women’s jail was built to house 43 inmates, but has been averaging 73 and occasionally tops 90.

The new facility would have a capacity for 196 beds and eliminate the need for women to sleep on “boats” on the floor.

It also would provide other upgrades, including classrooms, a medical facility for men and women, and a new security system.

The jail would go from 5,020 square feet to 38,000 square feet on two levels.

The project has moved forward in fits and starts over the years, with consultants hired and architectural services contracts awarded to develop design and construction documents.

The county received the conditional $25.1 million state grant in 2008, but that same year it put things on hold “until it was reasonably certain” that the state could provide the grant, according to the Perez report.

“After two years of inactivity,” the county started up again in February 2011.

But the state has been thorough and demanding, Perez wrote, “requir(ing) significant staff time to coordinate and manage the project with various state agencies” before the grant can move forward. In addition, the state’s legal counsel has made “frequent requests” for financial and other documents that are “extensive and very complex.”All this has taken time and money, Perez wrote.Since the bidding documents have not been finalized, there is no start date yet.