Despite opposition expressed by social justice advocates, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved spending $16.5 million on projects that will lay groundwork to begin construction on the proposed new jail.
Before a room smattered with opponents wearing stickers and holding flyers proclaiming "No New Jail," the board approved proposed contracts for planning, design and management firms that will begin work on the project.
The spending approved Tuesday morning is only a fraction of the total cost, which is slated to amount to to on a plot of county-owned land at Chemical Way in Redwood City.
Jail opponents pointed to the construction cost, and the more than $30 million expected annual operating expense, during a time when the county is finding ways as reasons to halt progress on the jail project.
But the board did not sway, and instead elected to move forward with the progress that was initiated last year when supervisors approved a proposal by Sheriff Greg Munks to build the new jail with enough room to house nearly 600 inmates.
Munks said Tuesday that the project is now more necessary than ever, as the on the current county jail facilities is greater than was initially expected.
As well, Munks said that the contracts approved Tuesday will go to generate more than 300 local jobs in the construction industry that will help to stimulate the economy in San Mateo County.
This sentiment garnered the support of representatives from local labor unions, who said they are in favor of the construction project.
And though Supervisor Dave Pine voted in favor of the proposals before the board Tuesday, he said going forward he remained wary about the size of the jail because construction cost will hinge on the scope of the project.
He also noted that the county is in the process of lobbying the state for money that can be used to pay for construction, since there is no current dedicated funding source for the project.
Pine in the past has voted against the jail construction, citing concerns regarding the perceived lack of effort put toward investigating the effectiveness of programs designed to reduce recidivism.
Munks has since pledged a willingness to identify and implement such programs in the new jail facility once it is built.
Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson said that she looked forward to of the new jail, because she wanted to see the facility be a place where inmate rehabilitation can take place.