If you had a chance to get rid of your beat-up old automobile and buy a new $20,000 car for two thousand bucks, what would you do?
It would be a pretty easy decision.
Plumas County is facing a similar decision concerning its long-outdated jail. With a potential $20 million grant within its reach, the county could realistically replace its jail with a state-of-the-art facility for about $2 million.
That still sounds like a lot of money. But the grant could be a unique funding opportunity. The sheriff and the Board of Supervisors think it’s worth the effort. And so do we.
When Sheriff Greg Hagwood outlined the plan for the supervisors last week, he said the county should start by applying for a $20 million grant from the Board of Corrections. The county would need to match the grant with a million of its own money and also buy 4.5 acres on North Mill Creek Road in East Quincy. The proposed site is an industrial-zoned area near the county animal shelter.
The result would be a 31,500-square-foot jail that could house 100 inmates. The current linear-design jail has been outdated for a generation. Grand jury reports remind us of that fact every year or two. It’s been deemed unsafe for inmates and corrections officers alike.
“It’s an atrocious design for staff and inmate safety,” Hagwood said. And because of staffing shortages, the jail’s capacity has been legally capped at just 37 beds.
The new jail would be much more efficient and economical and could probably be operated with the current number of staffers.
The sheriff said the county’s $2 million share of the cost could come from a variety of sources outside the general fund. He mentioned a number of loans and grants the county is eligible for. He added that a new jail could actually generate income by providing beds to short-term inmates from neighboring counties.
The new facility would allow the jail, sheriff and probation to consolidate into one campus in a non-residential area, away from the main road through town.
The potential benefits are overwhelming. Just the millions of dollars in construction revenue alone would benefit the local economy.
Securing the grant is certainly not a sure thing. The application process will require a lot of time and effort. But we have to do it. As Hagwood asked the supervisors, “Can we afford not to?”