Plumas County applies for new jail grant

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

It might be considered a long shot, but Plumas County could get a new state-of-the-art $20 million jail for $1 million.

Sheriff Greg Hagwood outlined the possibility for the Board of Supervisors during a meeting Tuesday, Oct. 18.

The sheriff said the county could be eligible for state grant funding under AB 900 Phase II.

The grant would require a 5 percent match from counties that are awarded the money. The match requirement is down from 25 percent last year.

Thirty small counties are competing for a share of $100 million available through the Corrections Standards Authority.

But Hagwood warned that the application process is daunting. And if Plumas County is selected, it will have to come up with the $1 million at that time.

Like many rural counties, Plumas has been forced to make budget cuts that include layoffs and furloughs for employees. Finding $1 million won’t be easy.

“It’s an incredibly great deal at an incredibly poor time,” Supervisor Lori Simpson said. “We are spending our reserves.”

Despite the financial obstacle, the board voted unanimously to apply for the grant.

The application process began with a letter of interest that had to be delivered to the Corrections Standards Authority by Friday, Oct. 21.

The interest statement merely puts the county in the running. If the Corrections Standards Authority accepts the interest letter, the county will be invited to submit a formal application.

“It’s an incredibly labor-intensive project, putting the application together, the needs assessment. It’s a phenomenal body of work,” Hagwood said. “It’s something we are prepared to engage. But there are those conditions that I set forward, that I would like the board to be cognizant of if we are going to pursue this.”

The $1 million condition is the big one.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Plumas County needs a new jail. And most likely an opportunity like this won’t come around for a long, long, long time,” Supervisor Jon Kennedy said. “So, if we commit to doing this, maybe we can commit to figuring out how to get the money.”

County Administrative Officer Jack Ingstad said he would be willing to crunch the numbers.

“If it’s a board priority, I’ll figure it out,” Ingstad said.

Supervisor Sherrie Thrall reminded the board that the county could earn $1 million if the state buys the Dame Shirley Plaza property to build a new courthouse. That $1 million isn’t included in the fiscal 2011-12 budget.

“If we were successful in the sale of Dame Shirley for the courthouse, it would appear to me that that funding would go a long way to meeting this match,” Thrall said. “Because it’s basically the sale of one capital asset to produce another.”

If the county does win the grant, the new jail will be a nice one. The current jail is outdated and its 67 beds could soon be filled with the influx of inmates from the AB 109 prison realignment process.

“We are proceeding with the idea of a 100-bed facility,” Hagwood said. “At this point right now our facility is 67 beds. But given its incredibly inefficient design, based on the consultants we’ve talked with, a 100-bed facility will satisfy the needs of Plumas County well into the future.”

Hagwood said “an efficient and contemporary” 100-bed jail wouldn’t require additional staff. He said it would feature a pod design that would allow corrections officers to easily monitor inmates.

“What so many agencies are having problems with right now is they build these new jails and then they can’t afford to staff them,” Hagwood said. “If you can’t staff them, what’s the point?”

Hagwood said four sites have been identified as possible locations for a new jail.

The locations mentioned are: county property adjacent to the animal shelter, the current jail property, property at the sheriff’s office and the armory location.

The sheriff noted that the state actually has $600 million available for new jails. But the largest counties will be getting most of it.

“In keeping with the state’s track record lately, $500 million of the $600 million go to medium and large counties — of which there are 28,” Hagwood said. “The remaining 30 small counties get to divide $100 million for jail construction.”


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