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Supervisors Take Initial Step Towards Possible Law And Justice Projects

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Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors are looking to hire a financial advisor before potentially developing three remaining parcels at the law and justice center campus off Old Wards Ferry Road.

Already at the site are the new jail, courthouse, juvenile hall and transit hub. We reported earlier that the county hired a firm that developed a conceptual plan, with four different options, to create space for the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender, Sheriff’s Office, Stanislaus National Forest, Probation, Grand Jury and food service. There are also plans for additional parking lots and roadway improvements. All-in-all, it was noted that a project could push upwards near $100-million.

All of the supervisors expressed concerns about spending additional money on facilities, especially since the county has a bond debt of around $33-million that it will pay off over the coming decades. District Three Supervisor Anaiah Kirk stated, “While we are planning, I don’t want to miss the fact that I think the majority of the board feels we need to get our debt in order. For me, I’m not going to pull the trigger (building new facilities) until I feel everything is in order.”

There was consensus Tuesday by the supervisors to put out a “request for proposals” for a financial advisor. The cost to hire such a company would be in the ballpark of $15,000-$20,000. The county is interested in knowing the costs of the status quo (leases) as opposed to building new facilities and taking on additional debt. The board would also like to know about different finance options, which could include some form of a public-private partnership. Supervisors Jaron Brandon and Ryan Campbell also proposed looking into forming an ad-hoc committee so that the public could be involved in the planning process from the get-go. However, the other supervisors felt it was too premature to have that type of conversation, and only supported the idea of looking for a financial advisor.

During staff discussion, Sheriff Bill Pooley encouraged the supervisors to develop plans for the project over the short-term, even if long-term funding is not available. He cited that the jail project received a majority of its funding from two state grants, and a primary reason was that the project was “shovel-ready.” When asked, Deputy CAO Maureen Frank estimated that the cost to develop plans in advance of construction could be around $1.7-million.

The Supervisors collectively agreed that the best strategy is to first look at the financial situation, in relation to more construction, before taking any additional actions.