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By Keith Carls, KEYT - KCOY - KKFX Reporter,
Published On: Apr 14 2014 07:56:39 PM CDT

Its the biggest public works project in Santa Barbara County in recent memory.

The 376-bed North County Jail, and its associated projects, carries a price tag in the $100-million range to complete on about 50 acres of land at the southwest corner of Betteravia and Black Roads in the Santa Maria Valley.

"We need the jail and we need it here", says retiring Santa Maria Valley  Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Hatch.

Hatch sees the obvious economic benefits a north county jail construction project would have in in the Santa Maria Valley.

"We look to hire as many people as they can locally", Hatch says, "it really is important obviously, and the jail will have to have 100 more employees which are generally good paying jobs, you factor into that $17 million a year, that's a lot of money that goes to salaries."

Now after years of deal-making in and out Sacremento, the money to build the north county jail is finally  in place but the politics as to who gets to build it may not be.

"I suspect that all of things will work themselves out, I hope that they do", Hatch says, "I hope that they don't get mired in that talk of favoritism and cronyism and things like that, I just hope that it can move forward."

The north county jail project update will be presented to the SB County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday in Santa Barbara.

The proposed 376-bed north county jail project is estimated to cost more than $17 million a year to staff and operate.

Its seen as the best way to ease chronic overcrowding in the county main jail near Santa Barbara and comply with existing court and grand jury orders to reduce the overall main jail population.

County Supervisors must approve an Environmental Impact Report for the project site on about 50 acres along the southwest corner of Betteravia and Black Roads west of Santa Maria before the mega-project can move forward and go out to bid.

Central Coast News has received a copy of a letter from the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association which is waving red flags about who will get the jobs to build the the new jail.

In a letter to the Board of the Supervisors, the Association points out local member contractors and their local sub-contractors have lost out on work with recent large scale construction projects including the new Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria and various Measure I projects at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria for reasons including a lack of union membership.

The Contractors Association is urging the Board of Supervisors to shelve any proposed labor agreements for the new north county jail project so the Association, on behalf of its members, can have more say in how the project's contracts are awarded going forward.



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