Board Vote Removes Hub Jail Priority
*** Note: today’s Board vote will be confirmed May 10 on the board's consent calendar with a resolution prepared by Riverside County counsel. You can read more on what the Board approved here: http://riversidecountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1122
RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed Tuesday to remove the regional detention center as the No. 1 priority on the capital improvement plan, directing staff to look at adding much-needed and less-costly jail beds most likely in Indio and elsewhere in the county.
In taking the new direction, the Board of Supervisors told staff to re-evaluate the 2005 jail needs assessment plan that identified the regional detention center, also known as a hub jail, as a long-term solution to provide as many as 7,200 jail beds when completed.
Supervisor John J. Benoit said the economic downturn since 2005 makes it impossible to fund the regional detention center for the $300 million price tag, which included massive infrastructure such as a water treatment plan before the first jail bed was built and steep operating costs.
“It was just too big of a mountain to climb,” Supervisor Benoit said of the costs involved, given the county’s projected $24.8 million budget shortfall. “It is encouraging to know we have options to get jail beds cheaper and faster by expanding existing facilities.”
He and Supervisor Marion Ashley did not rule out the possibility of having a regional detention center built in the future. The regional detention center was tentatively set to be built in the Whitewater area outside the San Gorgonio Pass.
Benoit urged the expansion of the Indio Jail, which was originally built in 1959 and now has 354 beds. The supervisor proposed the six-story 50-year-old County Administration Center in Indio be razed and replaced with a new jail of about 500 beds. A new County Administration Center could be built on county-owned property nearby.
The Indio Jail represents about 9 percent of the county’s 4,100 jail beds. The Coachella Valley has about 20 percent of the county’s population.
“We are behind the curve in the eastern part of the county,” Benoit said, noting the anticipated rapid growth of the Coachella Valley in the future.
While exact figures for the Indio Jail plan have yet to be worked out, Benoit estimated it would be a fraction of the cost of a regional detention center in Whitewater.
County officials said it take several months to re-evaluate the 2005 jail beds needs assessment plan and to identify the most logical choices for jail expansion.
Benoit thanked several people representing the Coachella Valley’s hospitality industry who spoke Tuesday in support of the county’s fiscal responsibility and willingness to change course.