Fresno applies for $80M grant for new jail building

FRESNO, Calif.

The jail building would be located on the northwest side of the present jail complex, in what is now a parking lot. It would hold about 300 inmates. Almost 90 percent of the cost would be paid by the state. Sheriff Margaret Mims told the board of supervisors it's a good deal.

"This really provides a facility for the future," said Sheriff Mims. "It not only is replacement beds for the old jail we have it also gives us the ability to build up."

The building would be designed to hold two additional floors and 300 more inmates, if more money becomes available.

If it wins the state grant Fresno County would use leftover funds from other projects and tobacco tax money to pay its share of almost $9 million.

In order to staff the new building, the sheriff wants to shut down the old south annex jail which houses 500 inmates and move the staff to the new jail, which will hold 300. Supervisor Andreas Borgeas was concerned.

Borgeas said, "The loss of 200 beds is troubling."

But the sheriff says efforts to move the inmates through the courts more quickly will reduce the need for jail beds and County Administrator John Navarette believes the south annex jail won't last much longer.

Navarette explained, "You are looking at a 1941 structure that has long outlived its effectiveness."

After raising lots of questions and concerns board members ended up voting unanimously to apply for the state funding. But Fresno is competing with 12 other counties for state money. Sheriff Mims believes Fresno County has a good shot.

Sheriff Mims explained, "I am more than confident we can compete with other counties competing for these funds."

A decision on the funding should be made by mid-January.

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