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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 2:42 pm | Fair 67º


Santa Barbara County’s Northern Branch Jail Project Near Santa Maria Soon Will Go to Bid

Board of Supervisors approves the move for the new 376-bed jail facility and 228-bed Sheriff's Transition and Re-entry Complex

Santa Barbara County supervisors authorized staff to go out to bid for the Northern Branch Jail project, also called the North County Jail, which has substantial state grant construction funding and will be located near Santa Maria.
Santa Barbara County supervisors authorized staff to go out to bid for the Northern Branch Jail project, also called the North County Jail, which has substantial state grant construction funding and will be located near Santa Maria. (Santa Barbara County photo)

Santa Barbara County staff are now authorized to go out to bid for the Northern Branch Jail project, a 376-bed facility near Santa Maria at Betteravia and Black roads.

The Board of Supervisors approved the move Tuesday, in addition to moving forward with an insurance program for construction and a lease agreement with the state for the county-owned jail complex site.

The new jail complex will have the 376-bed facility and the 228-bed Sheriff's Transition and Re-entry Complex that is designed to offer more programming to inmates. 

The two construction bids are for the site work and jail construction, with an estimated construction contract value of $62.2 million, and offsite work to provide sewer and water services to the site, with an estimated contract value of $2.25 million, according to General Services Department assistant director Greg Chanis.

County staff members expect to award a bid in November — the last time to turn back if supervisors are having doubts — and start occupying the new jail complex in May 2018.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr reiterated her concerns about the project, saying the three main reasons she saw for building the facility “are slowly evaporating.”

It’s a disappointment that the licensed or certified mental health beds were eliminated from the project design, Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said. There are 32 “special needs” beds that will be used for medical and/or mental health housing in the jail complex, according to the General Services Department.

Supervisors also approved pursuing an owner-controlled insurance policy, meaning the county will get an insurance policy to cover general liability and workers compensation, instead of the traditional model where all parties and contractors get their own coverage, Chanis said.

It is becoming a trend in large county projects but has never been used in Santa Barbara County before, county counsel Michael Ghizzoni said. With this insurance plan, the county could potentially see lower bid amounts since contractors won’t include coverage in the bids, he added. The county can reject all bids if the amounts are much higher than expected.

Supervisors plan to require the bid-winner to do outreach and encourage local participation through hires from companies in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

The next step is to get design plans approved by the state fire marshal’s office, which has been a long process.

Chanis said the design team is meeting with the office next week and wants permission to bid “to try to light a fire” and get the final approvals, he said.

The property is being leased to the state for the time of the financing liability since the majority of construction funding comes from state grants. 

Noozhawk news editor 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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