SLO County women’s jail expansion behind schedule and over budget

Construction nears completion on the women’s jail.
Construction nears completion on the women’s jail. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

An expansion of the San Luis Obispo County women’s jail has fallen a year behind schedule and is $3.3 million over budget because of construction problems and delays.

County supervisors approved the latest change order Tuesday — this one adding $1.1 million to the construction costs — and heard an update on the project. The cost adjustment drew no discussion from supervisors and no public comment.

The project, which broke ground in 2014, was originally estimated to cost $40.7 million. A total of $2.2 million in construction change orders had already been added before the supervisors approved the $1.1 million increase Tuesday.

Because construction has fallen a year behind schedule, the $1.1 million is needed to pay for the continued services of various contractors, such as the project manager and architect, Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Rob Reid said.

“The $1.1 million will come from savings in previous capital improvement projects in recent years,” he said.

The delays were caused by several factors, said Dave Flynn, deputy director of the county public works department. One, he said, is the fact that construction crews encountered an unexpected amount of rock and cobble in the ground that made drilling and construction of foundation structures more difficult and time-consuming. Changes also were made in the construction of hollow metal walls required by the state fire marshal, and that contributed to the delays.

The metal walls are designed to make them effective fire barriers, Flynn said. It is common for the state fire marshal to require changes during construction, and making those changes probably added several months to the delay, Flynn said.

The project is a 36,000-square-foot addition to the existing women’s jail facility that will provide housing for 198 female inmates. It also includes a new medical and dental facility that will serve the entire jail population, and a full facilitywide security electronics upgrade.

Construction contractor for the project is Roebbelen Contracting Inc. of El Dorado Hills.

State grants are providing $25.1 million for the project. The state money came from AB 900, a 2007 state bill that provided $7.7 billion for construction of prisons and rehabilitation facilities.

The facility has been under construction for 2 1/2  years and is 85 percent complete. Completion is scheduled for July 2017. Construction of the housing unit is expected in September, and inmates will be moved in shortly thereafter, Reid said.

Completion of the security electronics upgrade and other work will take until next July to complete. Sheriff’s staff also will need training to learn how to use the new electronics.