The Mendocino County jail expansion project is facing up to $4.1 million in funding shortfalls and will take a year longer to construct than initial projections showed.
Construction of the 22,500-square-foot jail expansion that was first introduced in 2019 is stalled while the state fire marshal and county building department review construction plans, said Eric Fadness during the Tuesday Board of Supervisors meeting. Due to increases in labor costs and higher prices of materials because of inflation, the project is getting more and more expensive, he said. Fadness is a principal at Nacht & Lewis Architects, the architecture firm designing the jail expansion.
“We are not real confident that we can get through the review process, just with the delays we’re seeing, in a timely fashion,” Fadness said. “The delays have basically had an impact on the cost of the project, so we continue to see substantial increases caused by construction materials and construction labor, wages are increasing.”
Nacht & Lewis were contracted to design and construct two new buildings expanding the current 301-inmate Mendocino County jail that would provide new housing and treatment centers and a new visiting center. The new housing center will have about 60 beds, a safety cell, respiratory isolation cell, recreation yards, nursing station, medical and dental exam rooms, and other rooms for programming and staff support. The visiting center will provide contact and non-contact spaces for families and attorneys, according to the architecture firm’s website.
The plans arose from a state lease-revenue bond that provided funds for the design and construction of adult local criminal justice facilities. Mendocino County received $25 million from the state to construct the new buildings.
Cost projections from the construction manager estimated the expansion to cost $29.6 million in May 2021. Now, those projections predict it will cost the county between $33.7 and $35.6 million to construct, and it could end up $7 million or $8 million above budget, Fadness claimed at the meeting.MENDO-844-COST-UPDATE-080222-1
The increasing construction costs leave a $2.2-4.1 million funding shortfall, the budget analysis shows. It’s construction that’s dire to the safety and effectiveness of the jail, said Sheriff Matt Kendall. A 2022 Mendocino County Grand Jury report said the jail has faced serious deferred maintenance issues since it was first built in 1985.
“We can’t afford not to go forward with this project,” Kendall said.
The BOS agreed during the Tuesday meeting to lobby the state for funding to cover the outstanding costs of the jail extension. It wasn’t immediately clear when the board would begin seeking state funding.
“My understanding is that jail was constructed around 1985 to last a couple years while the county built a jail, but the county never followed through. It’s not an exciting project, supervisors probably don’t take this job to build a new jail, it’s not what their constituents want to see as the focus, but the reality is it’s a mandate,” said Board Chair Ted Williams during the Tuesday meeting.
“The sheriff has the charter to operate the jail, but the board has a responsibility to provide him with a facility that is safe and staffing that meets state requirements,” he continued.
Construction on the jail is contingent upon plan approvals from the state fire marshal and county building department, Fadness said, but the county expects to begin building in April 2023 and complete the expansion by December 2024, according to documents submitted by the county to the BOS. The county hopes to begin using the facilities in March 2025, nearly a year later than what was expected this time last year.MENDO-844-MILESTONE-SCHEDULE-080222
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