State nixes joint facility plan

Dan McDonald
Managing Editor

A joint venture by the Plumas County sheriff and the California Highway Patrol appears to be dead just two months after it was announced.

On Friday, March 28, the CHP Commissioner’s Office said it won’t be joining forces with the sheriff to build a new joint facility in Plumas County.

The CHP’s director of communications, Fran Clader, announced the decision in an email to Feather Publishing on Friday afternoon.

“While we appreciate the Sheriff’s interest in this area, the lengthy process to construct a new CHP Area office in Plumas County is well underway,” Clader wrote. “After a considerable amount of time and money have been invested, a site has already been selected. As such, at this point, it would not be feasible for us to start the process over with Plumas County, or any other agency.”

Sheriff Greg Hagwood said he was shocked after receiving a call from the commissioner’s office Friday.

“I’m disappointed about this, as are a lot of people in Plumas County,” Hagwood said. “It really flies in the face of common sense. Our elected officials in the county and Sacramento recognize the benefit in doing this proposal.”

Hagwood has been aggressively working to garner support for a joint project that would entail building a campus to house the CHP, sheriff, jail and other law enforcement offices together.

The sheriff said he recently talked about the plan with Gov. Jerry Brown. Hagwood said the governor told him he liked the idea of the state and county working together to save money.

State Sen. Ted Gaines was a strong supporter of the plan that was devised by Hagwood and local CHP Commander Lt. Joe Edwards. It was strongly endorsed by the county Board of Supervisors.

Just two days before the CHP announced it was pulling out of the deal, Gaines told Feather Publishing, “I support this joint venture and believe it will greatly benefit the people of Plumas County.”

Gaines explained that “allowing Plumas County and the local CHP office to join efforts will provide a higher level of service to their communities, reduce overall construction/operating expenses and develop enhanced state and local working relationships.”

The governor’s office declined to comment two days prior to Friday’s announcement. “Generally, we do not comment on these sort of proposals,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Brown.

Plumas County Supervisor Lori Simpson said she was surprised because she believed the state was seriously considering the proposal, “especially considering there are fewer resources available throughout the state,” she said.

“It’s disappointing,” Simpson said. “It’s like being asked to go to the prom and then your date doesn’t show up.”

Local CHP Commander Lt. Edwards said last week that although he was very excited about the possibility of working with the sheriff on this project, the ultimate decision was obviously out of his hands.

It is widely accepted that both the sheriff and local CHP need new facilities. And the long-outdated county jail has been a source of concern for more than two decades. Several grand juries have called the jail unsafe for both inmates and corrections officers.

Perhaps no one is more disappointed than Hagwood. A week before Friday’s announcement, the sheriff sat down with Feather Publishing to outline his vision for the new offices and jail.

He said he had identified a 13- to 15-acre property in East Quincy and had begun the appraisal process.

Hagwood said he anticipated the total cost of the project would be about $30 million. He added he was looking at grant funding and planned to meet with the governor’s staff in an effort to get many of the county’s costs waived.

In short, Hagwood said the innovative idea to have the county and CHP work together just made sense. And he said it fit the governor’s vision of consolidating efforts.

Hagwood said he didn’t get a good explanation for the decision during his Friday phone conversation with a deputy CHP commissioner.

“There was really no meaningful explanation,” Hagwood said. “It was just a blanket refusal.

“The result of this decision is it will be a lost opportunity and a waste of money,” Hagwood said. “They (CHP commissioner’s office) are a slave to bureaucracy. And taxpayers will end up spending more money because of it.”

Although the CHP said it has identified a local site for a new office, its spokesperson didn’t disclose the location.

Michael Liang, a spokesman for the state’s Department of General Services, acknowledged that a site had been picked. He said the department wouldn’t disclose the location because the state was still in negotiations with the property owner.

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