Monday, July 13, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 18th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 3 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 3

County allocates $5 million more to jail project amid delays


After several delays, the construction of Santa Barbara County’s Northern Branch Jail is nearly complete, but additional funding is needed to finish the job.

During the March 17 Board of Supervisors meeting, General Services Assistant Director Skip Grey told the board that construction of the jail, which began in 2016, is 98 percent complete. Initially the jail was slated to open in 2019, but Grey said it’s now on track to open this September.

To reach that point, the board approved roughly $5 million more in funding for the project to cover costs associated with the delays that have plagued the jail’s development. This additional funding, plus future anticipated expenses, brings the total project cost to between $119 million and $121 million.

“We’ve had a number of issues, which is in part, why we’re here today,” Grey told the board.

One of the more costly issues occurred in June 2019 when Rosser International, the engineer and design firm the county hired for the project, ceased operations. As a result, the county sued the firm on July 12, citing a breach of contract and professional negligence.

Grey said other incidents that contributed to the delay include challenges procuring materials, design changes, inclement weather, and a contractor struggling with work coordination. To address these challenges, the board allocated $5 million this fiscal year and authorized the general services director to approve up to that amount in change orders to a contractor working on the jail.

“Numerous change orders and contract extensions have resulted in the need for additional contingency [funding],” Grey said.

County Counsel Michael Ghizzoni told the board that through the lawsuit with Rosser International, the county should recoup the $5 million the board authorized to use this fiscal year, which runs until the end of June.

“I would say that in a case where we have both design errors and a walkaway, I’m confident that we will be seeing, if not all, a large chunk of the money we’re talking about today come back to us through the litigation,” Ghizzoni told the board.

Construction on the jail started in 2016, and the initial planning for the project began in 2008. When it opens, the facility, located west of Santa Maria at the corner of Betteravia and Black roads, will house 376 inmate beds, including 32 for mental health and medical purposes.  

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