After nearly five hours of hearing angry residents voice their opposition, the Yolo County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to put off a decision on where to locate a new state prison in the county.
The board was expected to select a site for a state re-entry facility, a new type of prison that state officials say would provide inmates nearing the end of their sentences with rehabilitation, counseling and job training services. County staff narrowed the options down to three rural areas: a site east of Madison, a site southeast of Esparto and a site next to the Yolo County airport, northwest of the Davis city limits.
In the end, the board decided to remove the airport site and the Esparto site from consideration, leaving Madison as the only option. The supervisors said they wanted to spend more time negotiating with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to ensure that there would be adequate funding for the facility.
An overflow crowd of 150 people was in attendance at the meeting. Most speakers were rural residents who came to oppose the facility being located in rural Yolo County. Only one speaker, a representative of a local construction union, spoke in favor of the facility.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, 89 speakers took to the podium to tell the supervisors to oppose locating the facility anywhere in the county.
Esparto resident Robin White said she was opposed to the project because it was a danger to local citizens.
“It is not a benefit to our community, and if it were you all would be wanting it in your community,“ she said.
Several speakers brought up the lack of basic services at the rural sites.
“There’s no water, there’s no gas, there’s no sewer,” said Greg Miller. “In 2005 people were jet skiing at this location [because of natural flooding].“
The state would be required by law to mitigate the lack of basic services like this. CDCR representatives said the facility would not be built if the mitigation measures, such as installing flood control and sewage systems, were too costly.
Other speakers focused on the lack of services in the rural parts of the county, such as counseling, public transit, and education, all of which are important components of the proposed reentry program that would be used in the facility.
The cities of Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento have already said they do not want the facility within their city limits, forcing the county to look solely at rural sites.
Though the Board of Supervisors did not select a site Tuesday, they did reaffirm their support of the concept behind the facility. By allowing the state to build a reentry facility in Yolo County, the county qualifies for a $30 million grant to be used for the expansion of the county jail in Woodland.
“The ability to actually provide services has been hampered by severe overcrowding,” said assistant county administrator Pat Leary.
Last year, 3,304 prisoners were released early from the county jail because of overcrowding, Leary said.
From here, the county will continue talking with CDCR about options for the site, particularly whether there will be enough funding to provide for all the mitigation necessary at the Madison site.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. XXX