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County staff present plans for a tunnel connecting a new courthouse to the county jail.

Supervisors Apply for Homeless Outreach Funding, Update Veterans Buildings Rules and Approve Jail Construction Contract

Sep 18, 2018
by Will Carruthers

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At its Tuesday, Sept. 18 meeting, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors applied for a state grant to fund outreach and treatment for mentally ill homeless people, approved new usage rules for the county's veterans buildings and awarded a construction contract to build a tunnel connecting the jail with a new county courthouse.

Homeless Outreach Grant

The items included applying for a $1.3 million grant from the state’s Homeless Mentally Ill Outreach and Treatment Program, a one-time fund that will distribute $50 million to counties across the state.

Although the supervisors were appreciative for the funding, there was hope for more ongoing money to deal with the county’s homelessness crisis.

It’s been 50 or 60 years since Reagan destroyed our mental health services. It’s time [California] started really investing in homelessness,” Supervisor Shirlee Zane said, encouraging the state to increase on-going funding instead of offering one-time grants.

Zane also criticized the way the state distributed the funds between counties.

The money was allocated by the California Department of Health Care Services using data from the 2017 US Housing and Urban Development Point In Time Count.

Small counties are eligible for $100,000 to $200,000, while Sonoma County and other larger counties are eligible for funding tied to the size of the county’s homeless population.

Board of Supervisors Los Angeles County received a lump sum of $15 million under the program, however a DHCS document online does not explain how the department decided to award Los Angeles such a large portion of the funding. 

Applications for the money are due by September 25 and the county will know whether it has received the money by October 2, according to astate document.

The funds will be issued to counties by December 31 and must be spent before June 30, 2020.

The supervisors told staff to apply for the funds as part of its consent calendar.

New Veterans Building Usage Rules

The Supervisors approved a new set of rules to govern the use and maintenance of the county’s Veterans Buildings.

The new rules would allow “for Veterans association sponsored public events without use fees, when those events are for patriotic purposes or held specifically for the purpose of fundraising to benefit Veterans and their families, and by providing for discounted use fees for individual Veterans personal events,” according to a staff report.

The Veterans Memorial Buildings Advisory Committee endorsed the rules change in a unanimous vote but some residents who spoke during the meeting’s public comment period did not support the changes.

The Press Democrat reported Monday that one veteran’s group, Sonoma’s VFW Post 1943, has filed a lawsuit against the County over the rules change.

In their comments about the decision, the supervisors referenced the need for revenue to maintain the Veterans Buildings in the county and around the state.

“It would be great if we could go to the state for funding. I believe if there was a statewide measure to fund veterans building upkeep that it would pass and we would be done with this bandaid approach,” Supervisor David Rabbitt said.

The supervisors approved the new rules as part of its consent calendar.

Courthouse Tunnel Contract Awarded

The supervisors approved a final $4,053,208 expenditure to fully fund the construction of a passage way connecting the county jail to a new state courthouse in order to efficiently and securely transport inmates between the buildings.

Thompson Builder Corporation won a contract to build the tunnel after responding to an April 2018 request for proposals from the county. Under the contract, the company will need to complete the tunnel for no more than $9,085,658. 

Jailhouse PlanThe total cost of the project is $14,502,409. An alternative plan, which called for hiring ten full-time staff and purchasing multiple vehicles was considered prohibitively expensive by county staff.

The county estimates that between 150 and 180 inmates will be moved between the buildings each day.

The new courthouse located on the Sonoma County Administration Center campus, will have 15 courtrooms in approximately 169,342 square feet. The building is expected to be completed in fall 2022, over ten years after the idea was first proposed by the state. 

“What concerns me is that we’ll get the money,” Zane said. “I’ve been watching the state hem and haw since they made us a promise in 2012.”

While the funding process has not been quick, Caroline Judy, director of the County’s General Service’s Department, said she was confident the state money would come through.

Rabbitt asked staff to make the state aware of the extra costs potentially incurred by the County during the lengthy back and forth process over the project.

The resolution passed with a 5-0 vote.

The full agenda of the meeting is available online.

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