Board authorizes $10 million more for jail construction budget

RIVERSIDE – The Riverside County Board of Supervisors authorized a $10.2 million increase in the budget for construction of the John J. Benoit Detention Center in Indio, mostly to cover higher insurance costs.

The board’s 5-0 vote, made without comment, granted the Riverside County Economic Development Agency the additional funds from bond proceeds generated from debt sales tied to the jail.

The detention center project budget was originally $330.35 million and is now $340.6 million.

Economic Development Agency documents show the bulk of the additional money was requested due to growing expenses connected to the county’s “owner-controlled insurance program,” established specifically for jail construction. The program functions as an umbrella covering a range of liability, excess liability and workers’ compensation policies.

The board separately approved $2.2 million in additional funds for the project manager, San Bernardino-based Vanir Construction Management, which estimated that the final phase of construction would be completed in May 2019.

Construction of the first phase is tentatively slated to wrap up in late July.

Building out in phases was necessary to contain costs, officials said. After the first phase is completed, 388 jail beds will be available in the high-tech lockup.

In January, the board approved $7 million requested by Sheriff Stan Sniff to recruit and hire an estimated 70 correctional personnel needed to staff the new jail. The current staff at the existing Indio Jail were found to be too few in number to manage the facility.

The old jail will be demolished to make room for the new one.

The Benoit Detention Center has been under construction since July 2015, after repeated delays stemming from county budgetary challenges and state- mandated reviews.

The design calls for a 1,600-bed facility. The existing jail contains 353 inmate beds.

Along with correctional personnel, cooks, custodians, dieticians, accountants and medical professionals will be needed to staff the facility, which will be situated at Oasis Street and state Route 111.

Other than new jail staffing, the county is effectively under a hiring freeze to help address a structural budget deficit that has plagued the books for years. Most of the gap is attributed collectively to public safety agencies, though a sizable share is also associated with the Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley.

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