County begins process of acquiring jail property
Tulare County Tuesday moved a giant step closer to purchasing land on Scranton Avenue in southwest Porterville for the new county jail.
Supervisors set a hearing for July 10 to hear public comments on the proposal to build a large jail facility — 200 to up to 500 beds — at the $60 million facility within the city limits of Porterville.
Also Tuesday, the Porterville City Council agreed that the city general plan allows for the construction of a large jail facility at Scranton and Newcomb, further paving the way for the project that is expected to bring at least 150 jobs to the area.
The county has not finalized the purchase of the land, but Fifth District Supervisor Mike Ennis said plans are to complete that acquisition by August 1.
As a part of the board’s action Tuesday, the county will accept public comment on the purchase of the land for the next two weeks and will publish its notice of intent to purchase property.
Tulare County has been awarded a $60 million state grant to build the new jail that will not only allow the county to house more state prisoners because of state prison realignment, but to also serve the new South County Justice Center under construction in downtown Porterville. That grant calls for a 10 percent match by the county — $6 million.
The county is looking to purchase 76.27 acres, 40 acres which are within the city limits of Porterville. Ennis said the jail facility would be built on the land within the city that is served by city sewer and water, and use the other 40 acres for the jail farm where inmates help grow their own food.
“It’s through our farming operation that it only cost 90 cents a meal,” said Ennis.
He said a special county committee made of members not familiar with Porterville looked at four different sites before settling on the Scranton property.
“I stayed out of it, the sheriff stayed out of it,” said Ennis, who added, “This site had the most potential.”
He cited access to both highways 65 and 190 and accessibility to city services as keys.
“The circulation looked good, everything looked good,” he said.
Ennis hopes the county can find a local contractor for the project, but like the courthouse, it will be difficult to find a company bonded for such a project. If not, said Ennis, he hopes to see as many local subcontractors as possible hired.
Construction of the project is still at least two years off.