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County approves jail contracts
May 09, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

County officials approved millions of dollars in contracts to design and build a new jail in Redwood City even as some residents and grassroots groups hold out hope it will never break ground.

The Board of Supervisors, which last year approved a new jail and picked a 576-bed size with unfinished space, followed yesterday by backing $16.5 million in contracts for architects, builders and construction management.

The jail itself is estimated to cost approximately $155 million with roughly $40 million a year in operating expenses. Sheriff Greg Munks and other county officials are still keeping their fingers crossed that up to $100 million in state construction funds will come through but have said chronic overcrowding and a dilapidated women’s facility mean they will build a new jail facility regardless.

Munks yesterday said preparation of the former Chemical Way site will start this month with completion of the 260,000-square-foot jail expected in 2015.

Both Munks and Adrienne Tissier, president of the Board of Supervisors, said they were pleased at the unanimous vote to award contracts with Hellmuth Obata + Kassabaum for architectural services and Sundt/Layton for construction management services.

"I firmly believe that San Mateo County will have a model facility as well as programs to better prepare inmates for successful reentry into our community,” Tissier said.

Munks also emphasized the jail as a place not just for local incarceration but also the shift of state inmates through realignment and programs and services. He also emphasized his commitment to slash the recidivism rate.

Despite the jail plan continuing to move forward, opposition to it remains.

The board chambers was filled yesterday morning with members of several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union which as been quite outspoken in its concerns about a new facility.

Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a group which has fought new jail facilities statewide, also took aim at the plan, citing opinion pieces in local newspapers, the ACLU’s published articles and a needs assessment report by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice which recommended deferring construction until alternatives were more fully explored. The group, in particular, highlighted that a majority of adult arrests are related to drugs and alcohol and suggested services are a better fix than incarceration.

The board’s vote yesterday is "failing its residents and push[ing]the county into further crisis,” San Mateo resident Manual La Fontaine said in a prepared statement prior to the meeting.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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