Supervisors consider application for jail remodel, new interim mental health director

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comOctober 4, 2013 

The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider approving an application for $40 million in state funding to build a new jail and recommending a county employee to become the acting director of the mental health department.

The board will consider submitting an application to the Board of State and Community Corrections for funding to remodel the existing jail facilities on Sandy Mush Road.

The money would be used to build a new 432-bed facility at the John Latorraca Correctional Facility and close the 45-year-old Main Jail in downtown Merced. The total cost of the project is about $67.8 million with a contribution of $28 million from the county.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, the Sandy Mush facility is not equipped for housing high-risk inmates. In one year, there were 280 inmate assaults, 87 riots, 23 assaults on jail employees and seven escapes at both county jails, according to documents.

Deputy Delray Shelton, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Department, said the application for the project is due to the state by Oct. 24, with a funding decision expected in January 2014.

Supervisors will also consider a recommendation to appoint Scott De Moss, the county’s current assistant county executive officer, to acting director of the Mental Health Department.

The county’s mental health director, Manuel Jimenez, announced his retirement earlier this month after four years on the job. The county has already started the recruitment process for the director of mental health position, according to documents.

Other items up for consideration include a cash flow loan to Snelling Cemetery District for up to $12,000 from the special district augmentation loan fund to assist with paying for a new well.

The board will also consider proclaiming the week of Oct. 23-31, 2013, as Red Ribbon Celebration Week in Merced County to promote a drug-free lifestyle.

The Board of Supervisors meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the board chamber on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building, 2222 M St., Merced.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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