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State Board Awards Another $20 Million for North County Jail

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department receives an $80 million share of the $171 million pot of relinquished grants

The Board of State and Community Corrections on Thursday unanimously approved giving Santa Barbara County another $20 million to fund a North County Jail facility.

The Corrections Standards Authority, now the BSCC, awarded $60 million to the county in March as part of AB 900, the Public Safety and Offender Rehabilitation Services Act of 2007. As a condition of the grant funding, the county has to come up with matching funds of 10 percent and $15 million in annual operating costs.

The county relinquished its earlier award of $56.29 million to apply for the second grant.

“I am a happy man right now,” Sheriff Bill Brown told Noozhawk on Thursday.

With the $80 million in state grants, the next step is for the county to find the $11 million or so in matching funds and the operating cost for the new North County jail.

“It’s a big milestone for us and we look forward to taking the next steps to make this project a reality,” Brown said. “It’s been 30 years coming, and we’re very excited we’re this close at this point.”

The Sheriff’s Department expects to receive a recommendation next month from the county’s Debt Advisory Committee regarding the source of required matching fund, and will present the overall jail construction plan to the Board of Supervisors shortly thereafter.

To contribute to operational funds, the Board of Supervisors has approved a portion of general fund revenue growth to be carved out each year for 12 years, starting in fiscal year 2011-2012. The fund will add up to $3 million by the end of the current fiscal year, Brown said.

The Sheriff’s Department will need Board of Supervisors approval to move forward, then can get an architect to design the project and select a contractor. The concept proposed for the grant is a 376-bed facility with 16 medical and 16 mental health beds.

Current jail facilities are perennially overcrowded and got an influx of state prison inmates with state realignment, which allows more inmates to serve long-term sentences in county jails rather than prison and releases some prisoners on parole early.

The county’s proposed jail facility project is larger than the original design, for a total estimated cost of $95 million compared with the $76 million for the proposed 304-bed facility. The existing Main Jail has about a 1,000-person capacity.

“One of the main reasons we did what we did, relinquish our grant and reapply, was because now there’s a whole new level of inmate we have to care for in our facility,” Brown said.

“The medical, mental health, vocational and recreational needs are different than a person in jail for a shorter period of time; It’s more of a hybrid facility that incorporates some of those things as well as increased bed space.”

Local sales tax measures aimed at funding jail construction and operations were defeated by voters in both 2000 and 2010.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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