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Contracts approved for women's jail expansion 

Plans to begin building an expanded women’s jail for the county moved forward with the approval of more than $31 million in construction contracts.

However, in what county officials called “disappointing,” the cost for the project has already exceeded original estimates by several million dollars.

On Dec. 17, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve an almost $28 million construction contract as well as four additional contracts totaling approximately $3.5 million for testing and inspection services.

The construction bid was awarded to the El Dorado Hills-based firm Roebbelen Contracting, Inc.

The proposed facility will alleviate overcrowding at the current women’s jail, but also includes a new medical facility and space for group counseling.

However, the board of supervisors lamented the latest cost estimate it received on the project, approximately $40.7 million—nearly $2 million more than the board was told it would cost even as recently as August. That increase was due to the Roebbelen bid, which came in at approximately $1.5 million more than the engineer’s estimate, according to General Services Agency Director Janette Pell.

The financial blow is significantly cushioned, however, by the state, which is pitching in more than $25 million for the project. The remainder is being paid with county reserve funds and nearly $700,000 from the general fund.

“There’s been a string of unexpected costs on this project and this board is stuck because of the importance of this,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said at the meeting.

“The reality is, we’re kind of in a pickle here,” Supervisor Debbie Arnold said. “We can’t stop the project. We can grumble about it, but there’s not really anything else we can do.”

County Sheriff Ian Parkinson told New Times that he shared in the supervisors’ frustration over the price tag of the facility, but that he is pleased it is finally moving forward.

“I am disappointed that the project came in above projections, but sometimes it is hard to project costs of such a large project,” Parkinson wrote in an e-mail to New Times. “I have to remind myself that the last jail expansion occurred in the ’90s and the entire cost of that project was absorbed locally.”

Parkinson noted that the state is funding a large portion of the project.

“I suspect that this opportunity will never occur again in my lifetime,” he wrote. “I am hoping that our change orders will be very minimal and we will be able to save significantly on our built-in contingency, thus reducing our overall cost.”

The county is currently waiting for the state Department of Finance to formally sign off on the project, which is expected to occur in February.

Should all go according to plan, the new facility is expected to be complete by October 2016.

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