Hopes dashed for a new county jail

  Five counties could be awarded $20 million to build a new jail, but Plumas won’t be among them. That’s because the county can’t afford the $1 million match that the state requires.

  Back in January, both Sheriff Greg Hagwood and the Board of Supervisors were hopeful that a combination of property and personnel time could total the magic million-dollar number, but this month reality set in.

  During the July 9 and 16 board meetings, the sheriff and supervisors discussed whether to pursue the jail grant.

  “We would like a new correctional facility,” Hagwood told the board July 9, “but can we realistically commit ourselves to a multiple six-figure check to the state?”

  On July 16, he got his answer. The supervisors said the county doesn’t have the money.

  “We are already $1.5 million away from balancing the budget,” Jon Kennedy said, and added another $500,000 is needed to put county employees back to work full-time.

  “There’s no big pot of money sitting anywhere,” Kennedy said. “We shouldn’t be pursuing it at this time.”

  What the county is going to pursue is asking the State Department of Corrections to create a new category for the next round of jail construction funding.

  Under the current round of grand funding, Plumas is lumped with 36 other counties in the “small county” group. This group includes counties with populations up to 200,000, such as Shasta.

  “We are competing with counties 10 times our size,” Hagwood said.

  He and the board hope that a new category for very small counties would come with a lower match requirement, or one that could be paid over time.

  During a conversation after the meeting, Hagwood said he understood the county’s situation, but was disappointed at the lost opportunity.

  He said he had been talking with officials in the state correctional system and they were aware of the need for the new jail and wanted the chance to award the money to Plumas.

  The fact that the county needs a new jail is not a secret. The grand jury has repeatedly reiterated the need for a new jail and, until recently, the facility was operating under a consent decree because of poor conditions.

  Hagwood doesn’t blame the current board of supervisors for the situation; he looks to the past.

  “Prior boards could have put aside $100,000 per year,” Hagwood said. “They knew this has been a problem since 1984. Now we find ourselves with an excellent opportunity and we can’t pursue it.”

  The sheriff and the supervisors had hoped to purchase the former Trilogy Magnetics building on Mill Creek Road from Plumas Bank. They envisioned housing the sheriff and probation departments in the existing structure and building a new jail.

  The bank sought $2 million for the property, but it only appraised for $1 million. And only the portion of the 4.5-acre parcel that would be used for the jail could be considered for the match, leaving the county far short of the necessary match money.

  So when the grant applications go out this week, Plumas won’t participate.

  “Eventually we will be successful,” Hagwood told the board July 16 and thanked the supervisors for their support and encouragement.

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