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Santa Barbara County Gets More Details on Jail Construction Agreement

Santa Barbara County is moving forward on an agreement with trade unions on the construction of the North Branch County Jail, and got some more details this week on provisions that will try to keep local contractors in the running for the jobs.

The construction estimate for the jail's phase two project is $69.4 million, and is easily the largest capital project in the county's history.

In July, the county Board of Supervisors approved moving forward with a pilot project stabilization agreement, or PSA, for the phase two project of the Northern Branch Jail as well as the jail's treatment and re-entry complex.

The PSA would be a contract agreement between the county and the trade unions, and proponents say construction wouldn't be stopped at any point.

"You receive an assurance that there will be no work stoppages," according to Scott McGolpin, director of the county's Public Works Department.

Supervisors voted to return to the item next week and issued a 3-2 vote to do so, with county Supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Peter Adam dissenting because they were concerned the agreement would raise the cost of the project.

PSAs also often contain language for mandatory drug testing, safety practices around job requirements, and background checks.

Opponents say the PSAs place conditions on non-union, smaller contractors that may be too burdensome. The reduced number of bids can also raise the cost of the project.

If the project gets more than eight bids, it could reduce costs by up to 12 percent, McGolpin said.

This summer, the supervisors asked staff to begin negotiations with the Tri-County Building and Trades Council, which they did over a span of 10 weeks.

McGolpin said those agreements had resulted in some concessions for local, non-union workers.

The first six core workers of a non-union contractor can be used on a job, but additional workers will have to be obtained through the union referral system, he said.

No non-union employee covered by the program has to sign up for union representation, but must still pay a fee equal to union dues.

However, McGolpin said the contractors can be refunded some of that money.

"There is a refund process for a certain portion of that fee," he said.

The unions will use good faith efforts to fill 45 percent of the positions from local contractors, first from Santa Barbara County and then from San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

Last week, the operating engineer group represented by TCBT refused to sign off on the negotiations, but McGolpin said it's up to TCBT to get everyone on board with the agreement.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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