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County Inquiring About Jail Funding

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Sonora, CA — Tuolumne County is interested in receiving $33 million for a new jail, but isn’t sure how to cover the remaining costs.

The County Supervisors voted 5-0 to submit an “Interest Statement” to the Department of Corrections regarding AB 900 funding that helps fund jail construction. In 2008 the county went through the process and eventually turned down a funding offer, primarily due to a lack of local revenue. AB 900 grants only cover 40-50 percent of overall costs.

The most that Tuolumne County could receive from the next round of AB 900 funding is $33 million, but the jail project is estimated to be $82 million.

“The only way that you could possibly come up with that kind of dollars to match the state funds would be through a general obligation bond, or similar measure, put before the voters,” said Craig Pedro, County Administrator, to the Board of Supervisors. “You’re in a tough position here today. This may be the last round of AB 900 funds that are available, and it may be the last offering of any state funding for a jail for several years to come.”

Sheriff Jim Mele thanked the Board of Supervisors for submitting the “Interest Statement.” He also indicated that he supports the idea of somehow scaling down the jail project, because he feels voters would not pass a bond measure.

Interest statements for AB 900 grants are due later this month, but the actual application is not due until January. Now until then, county staff members will investigate ways to reduce the overall cost of construction. The county will also have to decide whether it wants to ask voters to approve a bond measure.

The state will decide which counties will receive jail grants on March 8, 2012.