Proposed Whitewater Jail – Resolved

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This issue has been resolved. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to end consideration of the Whitewater area for a county jail.

 

Printed in The Desert Sun
January 4, 2011

To the Editor:

La Quinta City Council continues on its path of making unilateral decisions without the proper representation of the residents of the City.

In yet another example of the City Council’s arrogant stance of making decisions without the voice of its citizens, they recently agreed (no vote) not to take a stand on whether to support the 7200 bed jail in Whitewater.

Council’s abstention on the issue is still an action—one that demands an answer.  Are they caving in to Riverside County?   They continue to avoid the simple act of asking La Quinta residents what they want and then acting accordingly.

If we had to vote on whether to have this jail we would vote NOT TO on grounds that include financial and social damage to La Quinta and the Coachella Valley. There are other alternatives.  One which Robert Sylk brought to the attention of the RDSA (Riverside County Sheriffs Association) in September, when he suggested opening all the vacant WWII Army Camps-Barracks and place the non-violent criminals there. This would immediately lessen the need for overcrowding and eliminate the need for a new jail.

The Concerned Citizens of La Quinta is a new organization created to represent and support the needs of the residents of la Quinta. We welcome all residents to join us. Regardless of whether you agree with us or not, we believe your voice should be heard.�

Phil Werber, Judy Hoffman, Tim Campbell
Board Members, Concerned Citizens of La Quinta

7 Responses to Proposed Whitewater Jail – Resolved

  1. Randy says:

    A jail shouldn’t be built anywhere near Palm Springs!

  2. Paul Lewin says:

    Dear Phil, Judy & Tim,

    I read your recent letter to the editor regarding the Whitewater Jail with interest. I would be interested in speaking with you. Can you please email me at info@movethatjail.org ?

    Thank you!

    -Paul

  3. David Wilson says:

    What is the the La Quinta City Council’s position on the jail? Are they for or against it?

  4. Len Wahlert says:

    Lenard W. Wahlert
    Special to The Desert Sun – March 24, 2011

    As I’ve attempted to educate myself with the facts, I find it very troublesome that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors is moving forward with this Whitewater jail hub.

    Let me bullet my concerns:

    Proposed spending of $500 million for this site and building. We have no money to do this. Stop the spending.

    No operating budget — $40 million per year to operate this facility. No money to do this. Raising our taxes is not an option. We have no money.

    Your study stated: “Other sources of revenue must be obtained.” Can you say taxes?

    An incredibly flawed initial study that built a canard to justify this jail’s construction.

    “An independent review of the county’s study by economist Dr. Phillip King exposed serious flaws in the county’s methodology: hotel nights were greatly exaggerated — just as people who drive from Palm Desert to Riverside for a meeting are unlikely to spend the night in a Riverside hotel, it is equally unlikely that people driving from Riverside to Palm Springs to visit someone in jail would spend the night in a hotel.

    “The median income of Riverside County is only $54,000 per year, not $79,000, and many people visiting county jails have even lower incomes.”

    A location that makes absolutely no sense relative to the geography of the other jails and courthouses residing in the county.

    Does the Riverside County Board of Supervisors really want to disrupt the billions in annual contribution to the county that the Coachella Valley contributes each year in hospitality, real estate, etc.?

    A 7,200-bed facility that is over twice the size of the county’s current facilities combined.

    A location that is potentially a “choke-point” on Interstate 10. Does the Riverside County Board of Supervisors understand the potential liability for Southern California and Arizona commerce?

    Do the Riverside County Board of Supervisors really think that the citizens of this valley are so stupid as to think this is a good thing? Is the Board of Supervisors going to force this down our throats?

    We all saw the results of the most recent national elections. Moving forward on this project will find a motivated citizen organization that will start at the grassroots, and move forward to remove the supervisors from office.

    It is time for common sense and open communication.

    The Board of Supervisors should be leaders and representatives of the citizens they were elected to serve. The minority is no longer going to dictate to the majority.

    This is an ill-conceived and poorly justified consideration.

    I strongly voice my disapproval of the proposed Board of Supervisors jail decision.

    This country, this state, this valley, this county is in a total state of denial relative to economics and debt.

    This is a terrible decision and one that warrants dismissal as supervisors of Riverside County if they pursue this plan.

    Lenard W. Wahlert is a La Quinta resident.

  5. LINDA GUNNETT says:

    They were able to build a jail on Alcatraz Island. England sent prisoners to Australia and the Cook Islands and the best our brilliant Board of Supervisors can think of is to place a prison in an area of senior citizens and tourists. If we cannot find a location out in the middle of the desert that is within Riverside County, then lets lease some remote desert property from Imperial County. We already have a prison out there, so lets just expand what we have; put in more housing for the employees and let private enterprise develop housing for the friends and families of the prisoners. Put them way out there where they can keep control of them and where they are less likely to “wander” into the neighboring towns. And when they are released, release them to Mexico, if they are from there, not back into our society. I don’t think any prisoner should be released until they can prove they have financial support to survive. Once out, many survive by stealing and killing, because our system has not done anything to rehabilitate them.

  6. Len Wahlert says:

    On May 3rd, The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will make a momentous decision that will affect budgets and public safety for a generation. At issue is whether to build California’s largest jail facility in the community of Whitewater, four miles from Palm Springs.

    While it is convenient to dismiss opponents of the plan as simple “NIMBYists,” there are strong public policy reasons for the Supervisors to revise their plans. The primary goal of the county at this point should be the delivery of much needed jail bed space to the Sheriff’s Department as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. The secondary goal should be containment of long-term operating costs. The Whitewater Hub Jail meets neither of these criteria.

    The staggering construction costs of the 140 acre jail-complex have much to do with the nature of the site itself. Whitewater is raw land with virtually no infrastructure to support a facility of this type. In order to build the jail there, the county would also have to construct (and operate) a new fire station, a separate sewage treatment plant, a power sub-station, a new freeway off-ramp (or miles of new roads to connect to existing ramps in Cabazon) and move high-pressure gas lines just to build the first set of jail beds. It was also designed to be the central kitchen and laundry facility for the other five jails. These basic infrastructure needs drove the costs up to $300 million for the first 1,200 beds of a planned 7,200 inmate facility.

    Jail beds typically cost about $110,000 a piece to construct, meaning absent these infrastructure needs the 1,200 beds could be constructed for approximately $132 million – roughly one-third of the costs of building at Whitewater.

    Located between the existing San Jacinto National Monument and the proposed Sand to Snow National Monument, the project was also expected to be a target of lengthy litigation due to the Hub Jail’s impact on a vital wildlife corridor which connects the two wilderness zones.

    Both the high costs and the anticipated delays would mean that our Sheriff’s Department would continue to labor under a federal injunction which requires the early release of inmates due to overcrowding. This injunction represents an enormous burden on our Sheriff’s department and a continuing public safety threat.

    The safest and most economical way to manage inmates is to house them adjacent to county courthouses. For example, in Riverside inmates are delivered to court via an underground tunnel, leaving no opportunity for escape and requiring very little cost in terms of staff time.

    By contrast, the Hub Jail would have no courthouse, and would instead rely on bussing inmates to the county’s existing five courthouses ranging from Blythe to Murrieta. This would require the acquisition and maintenance of a large fleet of specialized busses to move inmates across Riverside’s 7,000 square mile territory. It would also require that deputies spend a significant amount of time transporting inmates. Most importantly, it would make our public safety budget highly dependent on the price of fuel, injecting a level of uncertainty into the budget process and creating a cost-center that could not be controlled by the county government.

    Should the county wish to pursue a central jail system that relies on bussing, at the very least it should look to land that has existing infrastructure, like the abandoned March Air Base, that is somewhere within the Justice Center Triangle formed by Riverside, Murrieta and Banning. This area is close to the population center of the county and would significantly reduce travel time to our three largest courthouses.

    The good news is that there are sites adjacent to our existing courthouses that could easily accommodate the county’s need for additional jail space. A simple search on Google Maps shows that there is land next to the courthouses in Banning, Indio and Murrieta. This land already has the basic infrastructure required for correctional facilities and can be developed for less money and on a faster timeline than Whitewater. By following the traditional model of inmate management, where inmates are held close to existing courthouses, the county will also save millions of dollars in operational costs. These savings can be applied directly to providing more “boots on the ground” deputies or other public safety needs.

    Adjusting course on major projects is a difficult thing for government to do, but in these times of budget deficits it is essential that our local government be nimble enough to recognize that the public expects the delivery of jail beds in the most cost-effective and timely manner possible. Regional expansion of jails will achieve this purpose, while a Hub Jail in Whitewater will not. The Supervisors deserve praise if they can find a path forward that protects public safety and the public purse.

  7. Len Wahlert says:

    I submitted this letter to the Riverside Board of Supervisors today:

    April 27, 2011

    TO: The Board of Supervisors

    It is time to step up to the plate and do what’s right for the people you represent. No longer can we simply spend monies that we don’t have, and expect a strong robust economy to cover the shortfall(s). We are a decade or more away from this old economic model getting out of it’s “sick bed”. The State of California is going to die if we continue this kind of spending. How many more people have to move out of this state?

    Public Safety is the main issue in this debate. Providing the safety in a responsible manner is key.

    Here is a very short paragraph that explains in a simple straight forward manner, why we can’t move forward with the Whitewater Jail.

    The staggering construction costs of the 140 acre jail-complex have much to do with the nature of the site itself. Whitewater is raw land with virtually no infrastructure to support a facility of this type. In order to build the jail there, the county would also have to construct (and operate) a new fire station, a separate sewage treatment plant, a power sub-station, a new freeway off-ramp (or miles of new roads to connect to existing ramps in Cabazon) and move high-pressure gas lines just to build the first set of jail beds. It was also designed to be the central kitchen and laundry facility for the other five jails. These basic infrastructure needs drove the costs up to $300 million for the first 1,200 beds of a planned 7,200 inmate facility.

    We can’t spend our tax monies in this manner.

    The good news is that there are sites adjacent to our existing courthouses that could easily accommodate the county’s need for additional jail space. A simple search on Google Maps shows that there is land next to the courthouses in Banning, Indio and Murrieta. This land already has the basic infrastructure required for correctional facilities and can be developed for less money and on a faster timeline than Whitewater. By following the traditional model of inmate management, where inmates are held close to existing courthouses, the county will also save millions of dollars in operational costs. These savings can be applied directly to providing more “boots on the ground” deputies or other public safety needs.

    On May 3rd, The Riverside County Board of Supervisors will make a momentous decision that will affect budgets and public safety for a generation. At issue is whether to build California’s largest jail facility in the community of Whitewater, four miles from Palm Springs.

    The is a large segment of this counties population that have been made aware of this pending issue. The Whitewater Jail is really a ticking time bomb, that will awaken more and more tax payers if you vote to approve this jail. We are no longer sitting silent – on the side lines. The majority is waking up to spending that is out of control. As the large number of baby boomers move toward retirement, they are going to be a larger and larger voting block to stop this kind of spending. Fixed income won’t support waste of this magnitude.

    Respecfully,

    Len Wahlert

    La Quinta, CA

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