SANTA ANA – About 17 years after the county first approved a plan to add beds to James A. Musick Facility, the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to pay $6.8 million to a company to design the expansion.
The board unanimously approved a proposal to have AECOM Technical Services design a new dormitory-style facility at Musick to house 512 new beds. The supervisors also formally accepted $100 million in state-issued bonds, conditionally granted to the Sheriff’s Department in March 2012, to fund the expansion.
The jail, which sits on 100 acres of county land bordering Lake Forest and Irvine, houses about 1,300 inmates considered low-risk by the Sheriff’s Department.
The inmates stay in an assortment of portable and permanent buildings on the parcel, which gained new visibility in June with the opening of an extension to Alton Parkway that runs by the jail, linking Lake Forest and Irvine.
In 1996, county supervisors approved a plan allowing 7,854 new beds at the facility and letting in maximum-security inmates.
Irvine and Lake Forest sued over the plan, citing concerns the additional inmates would unjustly increase safety, noise and pollution problems.
A judge ruled in the cities’ favor, halting that expansion plan. In 2000, an appellate court reversed the ruling, reinstating the 1996 plans.
Irvine sued again in January 2012 to stop the expansion, but an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled in the coun-ty’s favor in November. In January, Irvine appealed that ruling. The suit is ongoing.
In November, Lake Forest agreed to not sue again as long as, among other things, the Sheriff’s Department’s agreed to keep maximum-security inmates out of Musick and capped the facility’s expansion at 3,100 inmates.
According to the agreement, however, Musick’s capacity may expand further if the Sheriff’s Department proves it needs more jail space or is ordered to expand by the state or federal government.
The county already has paid AECOM $2.56 million for planning services related to the jail’s expansion.
Construction of the 512-bed expansion is expected to begin in April 2016, according to a staff report.
Register staff writer Kim Pierceall contributed to this report.
By SARAH de CRESCENZO/ ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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