Placer County wish lists include money to open South Placer jail, smoother roads

Supes start budget process with look at departmental priorities
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Everything from opening the South Placer Adult Correctional Facility on a scaled-down basis, bumping up the road-repair budget and building on North Auburn’s Placer County Government Center’s expanding vacant spaces were on department-head wish lists presented Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors.

Signaling a start to budget discussions for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July, Sheriff Ed Bonner made his office’s initial request for as many as 78 new hires and as much as $13 million in additional funding next year – much of it to cover plans to open the new Roseville jail facility.

But Bonner and Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery, who represents the Auburn area, voiced similar thoughts on those numbers as starting points in negotiations. Talks could stretch into the late summer and end in figures downsized from the initial proposal.

“I assume we’re going to have discussions in reining that in a little bit,” Montgomery said. “I have a little bit of concerns looking at the gross numbers and maybe work to be done to get what you need. Like the Rolling Stones say, you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometime, you just might get what you need.”

Bonner’s response drew laughter from the crowd of mostly county staff members at the meeting in Auburn.

“And as a kid I used to circle everything in the Sears “Wishbook” too,” Bonner said.

Bonner discussed the possibility of a plan he said is being worked on by county jail staff, led by new jail commander Capt. Wayne Woo, to phase in occupation and staffing at the new Roseville facility. The current jail facilities, located in North Auburn, have experienced an increase in daily inmate population because of AB 109, a state bill that has shifted some of the prison population on counties. The county’s inmate numbers have risen from a daily average of 523 in 2011 to 598, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

A fully operational South Placer jail, with 450 beds, is expected to cost around $21 million a year to run. The jail in Roseville is currently sitting empty, with work nearing completion on the $93 million project.

Bonner said a phased-in approach could result in part of the building being operational by 2014. The approach – which could mean some cells closing in Auburn – would have a net impact of increasing capacity by 80 beds, he said.

“Originally, we had a tremendous price tag, with just transitioning and just running both facilities,” Bonner said. “Wayne’s marching orders were to cut the price tag and we will be coming back with a more detailed briefing and a phased approach.”

The department requests will now move through a vetting process that ends with final budget adoption in September by the Board of Supervisors.

Public Works Director Ken Grehm said there is a need to resurrect the county’s annual road-resurfacing program. The program was regularly receiving $2 million annually through 2006 and was boosted the next two years by federal stimulus funding and state bond funds, he said.

With the economic downturn, the road fund was dropped and road pavement conditions have decreased every year since then, according to Grehm and the county’s Average Pavement Condition Index. At its peak, the index was at just below the “good level.” Grehm presented a graph which showed road quality now at “57” – or in the lower end of the “fair” category. A total of 13 miles of the county’s 926 miles of paved roads are deemed “failed,” while another 143 are graded as “poor.”

“The decline will continue unless we can straighten out that (downward) curve (on road quality),”  Grehm said.

Facility Services Director Jim Durfee had some positive news on two fronts – noting the expansion of the Hidden Falls Regional Park between Lincoln and Auburn was ready for a public opening in May and the Applegate wastewater connection to the North Auburn sewer treatment plant was allowing the county to stop trucking sewage from that location.

Durfee added that one of the priorities in the coming year will be “maximizing county and economic development opportunities” at the Placer County Government Center in North Auburn.

More of the World War II-built units there will be demolished in the next year, including Bell Garden Apartments, he said. Negotiations are continuing on developing a Costco store on land adjacent to Home Depot, he added.