Napa County will receive far less state money to help build a new jail than it requested, and may turn to voters to keep the project on track.
The California Board of State and Community Corrections on Thursday awarded the county $2.8 million, rather than the $20 million that the county requested. The move left a $17.2 million hole in the county’s funding plan for a $66 million first phase of a new jail to be built along Highway 221 near Syar quarry.
“This doesn’t change the need,” county Supervisor Keith Caldwell said. “The county’s going to continue to move forward with trying to cobble together any available resources.”
That could include going to voters and making the case for a bond measure, Caldwell said.
A 2007 county report suggested replacing the 1970s-era, downtown Napa jail as a way to deal with a growing inmate population. Since then, the state has decided that certain low-level felons will be housed in county jails instead of in state prisons. Also, the Napa County jail was damaged in the August 2014 south Napa earthquake.
“We have not added beds in 25 years to that facility,” Caldwell said. “It’s significantly damaged. We certainly would like to move forward with the project.”
Napa County wants to build a 366-bed jail that could cost $150 million. It broke the project down to include a more immediately affordable, $66 million first phase with 64 beds and core facilities such as a kitchen and central control room that was to open as soon as 2020.
The first-phase funding plan called for $20 million to come from the state and the other $46 million from such sources as the sale of surplus county property and savings. But the state’s move on Thursday took this plan off the table, at least for now.
County supervisors briefly discussed a possible jail bond measure in August. They were looking beyond the 64-bed first phase jail they thought the county could construct with the help of state funding. They envisioned a bond would allow the county to build a 366-bed version of the jail all at once.
Dispensing with the phasing would save the county several million dollars annually in jail operating costs, some supervisors said. Otherwise, the county would have to run both the old, downtown jail and the new, first-phase jail at the same time to have enough jail space.
Now that the county has failed to secure the $20 million for the first phase, future bond measure discussions will have a new twist. County Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Larry Florin said the board must act by its March 8 meeting to place a measure on the June 7 election ballot.
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County officials have analyzed why the state trimmed their $20 million jail-building funding request to $2.8 million.
The California Board of State and Community Corrections awarded $500 million for jail construction. Napa County competed in the “small county” category that had 14 counties asking for a total of $261 million, with only $100 million available.
Out of the six “small” counties receiving money, Colusa, Yuba, Trinity and Humboldt had their full $20 million requests granted and Amador County had its full $17.2 million request granted. Napa County’s application ranked sixth out of the six winners and only $2.8 million remained.
Florin said the scoring system gave priority to counties that received no previous state money for corrections facility.
In 2013, California awarded Napa County $13.5 million to build a reentry facility at the same Highway 221 site. This is to be a 72-bed, minimum custody facility to prepare inmates for release.
If not for this part of the scoring system, Napa County might have ranked third in the “small” counties category, Florin said.
“That was a policy decision the state made,” Florin said.
Caldwell said the county’s approach is to have in-custody jail programs such as job skills and substance abuse treatment to try to reduce recidivism. The earthquake damage and limited space at the downtown jail has hurt this effort, officials said.
The county sent a letter to the Board of State and Community Corrections thanking it for its interest in the Napa County jail. It urged the agency to recognize the continuing needs of cities and advocate for future funding rounds.
“The county really thought it had a strong proposal,” Caldwell said. “We are certainly disappointed we did not get the full requested amount of $20 million … $2.8 million is better than nothing, I guess.”