It’s been a long time coming.
Or as the chair of the Merced County Board of Supervisors, Scott Siveira, says: “It’s a shining example of what you can get done when you have a commitment to your sheriff, your Sheriff’s Department, and law enforcement.”
Merced County leaders officially broke ground Tuesday on the long-awaited expansion project of the John Latorraca Correction Center (JLCC) off Highway 59 and Sandy Mush road. The new construction work kicks into gear after a decade of planning, meeting grant requirements, and budget maneuvering,
The goals of the now $138 million project are to improve health, education and rehabilitation services for inmates, as well as to improve overall public safety by adding a 256-bed facility next to the existing JLCC to replace the old, run-down Main Jail in downtown Merced.
The project, expected to be completed by June of 2026, is divided into two phases.
State funding for the jail improvement plan can be traced back to 2015 when the county received a $40 million grant; however, leaders say red tape, rising costs and the Covid pandemic brought on delays and significant changes.
Now, Phase 1 of the project is expected to cost $77.5 million. Work actually started in April, and at final buildout will include: four renovated dormitory buildings, eight classrooms, a new administration building with video and in-person visitation, a new kitchen, new medical, dental, and mental health facilities, staff locker and meeting rooms, and new security systems inside and out.
Phase 2 is the $61 million project to create the jail replacement, and work already started this month. The facility will contain five housing pods, consisting of one 64-bed female pod, two 64-bed male pods, and two 32-bed male pods. The downtown jail will be removed upon the completion of this facility, along with a planned $28 million project to build a new Sheriff’s Operation complex at the old Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.
Among the state and local leaders, and development teams, responsible for the planning and work on the site, Sheriff’s Capt. Greg Sullivan was singled out on Tuesday for his efforts in spearheading the project and keeping eyes on the prize, so to speak, over the years it took to get to this day. Sheriff Vern Warnke asked Sullivan to take his place during the traditional groundbreaking-with-shovels photo op.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office is announcing that it’s hiring for positions to be filled at the new facility.