About 15 months after Napa County held the ribbon-cutting ceremony for its $23.4 million inmate reentry facility, the building could finally open for real in May.
On Feb. 1, 2019, local leaders gathered to celebrate the 72-bed reentry facility. Selected, low-risk inmates were to go there that March to receive classes and counseling designed to help keep them re-offending and ending up back in jail.
But finishing touches remained to be done on the building and the construction company pulled out. Napa County turned to the surety company holding the performance bond to wrap things up with its own contractor, yet work moved slowly.
“None of it was super large or significant, but it all needed to get done,” Public Works Director Steven Lederer said recently. “Or still needs to be done.”
On March 10, the Board of Supervisors agreed to a settlement with the surety company—Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.—that sets April 30 as the deadline to complete the reentry facility.
The agreement is to head off a possible court case.
Supervisor Diane Dillon, when commenting on the reentry facility troubles last summer, highlighted the stakes.
“We want to get this thing done and start reducing those recidivism rates, which is part of the whole purpose here, helping people live better lives post-incarceration,” Dillon said.
The new settlement agreement lists more than 70 tasks to be completed by April 30. They range from caulking to fixing a shower slope to replacing plants and sprinklers to resolving the cause of a power surge that burned out backup batteries.
Napa County’s reentry facility looks nothing like a typical jail. The property along Highway 221 near Syar quarry isn’t surrounded by razor wire. Inmates won’t be kept inside cells with bars on the doors, but will sleep on bunks beds in dormitories.
Inmates will take classes at the reentry facility as they learn skills to help them when they return to society. Others might leave at times to go to a job or Napa Valley College classes.
All seemed well when Napa County held the grand opening ceremony on February 2019. Then, Vila Construction pulled out of the job before finishing. County officials said the century-old company also defaulted on about 15 other jobs.
“It’s very unusual for a contractor to default like this and leave us in this situation,” Supervisor Ryan Gregory said in June. “It doesn’t happen all the time, and unfortunately, it’s happened to us.”
About $500,000 worth of work remained, Deputy Public Works Director Juan Arias told the Board of Supervisors in June. The construction contract had been for $17.5 million, and the county had yet to pay $2.7 million, with part of the money withheld for liquidated damages and part due to subcontractors.
A $16 million performance bond guaranteed completion. The county in June agreed to have the bonding company, Liberty Mutual Insurance, finish the job using its contractor, The Vertex Companies.
Napa County could have bid out the remaining work itself and billed Liberty Mutual for any costs beyond the contract amount, a June county report stated. But that approach “is fraught with risk” and would likely lead to more extensive delays, it said.
County officials said in June that the reentry facility should be finished by late summer 2019.
But during the course of the remaining work, various disputes arose between the county and Liberty Mutual, according to the settlement agreement. They included what work was to be done, the adequacy of the work in place, the county’s claims for liquidated damages and the payments due to Liberty.
Besides detailing the remaining work, the settlement agreement calls for the county to keep $625,000 of the contract balance for damages. That leaves the remaining balance of about $2.1 million due to Liberty.
Work is to be completed to a “reasonable” standard acceptable to the county. The county will review the work as it is installed on a daily basis. If the work isn’t completed by April 30, the county can withhold as liquidated damages $3,000 per day until the work is done, the settlement agreement stated.
Napa County announced the settlement agreement March 10 after a Board of Supervisors closed session about possible litigation. Supervisors didn’t discuss the item in public. The Napa Valley Register then requested and received the 13-page agreement, which also has 21 pages of exhibits.
You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or email@example.com.
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