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County breaks ground for larger jail
$113 million project will increase jail capacity and launch new programs
groundbreaking pic 1
Local officials and invited guests turned over the first shovels of dirt Friday morning at the site that will be home to Stanislaus Countys new public safety center. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The expansion of the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center in Ceres got off to a start Friday morning with a ceremony that drew officials together for the turning of the first spades of dirt.

Sheriff Adam Christianson characterized the groundbreaking as an historic moment "but very exciting as well."

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by local and state officials, Sheriff Christianson, members Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra and Ceres city officials.

The $113 million project will increase the county's jail capacity and launch new programs aimed at decreasing recidivism rates.

"This is an exciting day for us," said Stan Risen, Ceres resident and Chief Executive Officer of Stanislaus County. "It's kind of with mixed emotions when you think about having to build additional jail facilities but I can tell you it's positive in my mind on two key fronts."

He explained that the county performed a needs assessment years ago that showed a deficient in jail beds and millions required to build more facilities. Risen felt there was "no way" the county could come up with the funding. He said the county is not only able to "address a critical need in our county for 10 cents on the dollar due to the opportunity to leverage some state funding that's become available."

The jail is the first in the state to utilize AB 900 Phase II funds, also known as the Local Jail Construction Financing Program established by the State Public Works Board and the first to begin construction. The $113 million project is being covered by $80 million funded through the state grant.

Supervisor DeMartini said the process to get the funding was difficult, stating "these lease revenue bond finance projects are very complex."

In June the Board of Supervisors awarded two contracts to Hensel Phelps for a total of $82.6 million to construct two maximum security units, a health care unit, and support facilities. Total the new facility will have 552 beds.

The Board of Supervisors also previously awarded a $4.4 million contract to Simile Construction Service to build a Day Reporting Center at the site that will be used by the probation department for check-ins, substance abuse counseling, life skills and job training.

"This one stop shops ... are a progressive way of thinking and sets Stanislaus County ahead in the state," said Stanislaus County Chief Probation Officer Jill Silva.

Risen said on a tour of the downtown men's jail with Supervisor Jim DeMartini of Ceres, they realized that "there is no way you can really do the proper kind of training and programming and skill set training in the kind of jail environment that we have in our downtown jails where you just have rows of bars and no classrooms. And this ability to build a more modern facility is going to provide us with some opportunities to really look at what we can be doing to reduce recidivism and providing those who are in custody the opportunities to find their way out."

The Public Safety Center, located next to the sheriff's department on E. Hackett Road in Ceres, will also have an intake, release, and transportation facility.

"This facility will meet the needs of the community for years to come," said Christianson.

The project is scheduled to be complete in late 2016. It will be the largest construction project undertaken in the county to date.

DeMartini said the county's goal is to reduce the two jail facilities to consolidate to "one modern, safe and efficient detention center for our county."