Camp Singer

Attendees of Camp Singer play a game at the Marysville facility on Friday.

While construction of the new Tri-County Juvenile Rehabilitation Facility is still awaiting state approval, the project’s start is almost in sight.

Yuba, Sutter and Colusa counties established a joint powers authority to construct a new juvenile rehabilitation facility back in August 2015. The project has since received two grant funding awards and gathered contributions from the participants totaling $19 million. 

But increases in labor, construction and material costs ran the cost proposal up $5.2 million to an estimated total of $24 million. 

In November, the Board of State and Community Corrections approved a change in scope for the project, going from 48 beds down to 32 beds to make up for the funding shortfall. The change in scope and other modifications (like removing one housing pod) will reduce the cost to about $19.7 million. 

The new juvenile hall facility will sit between the current one and 14Forward on 14th Street. 

Tim McCoy, Yuba County director of administrative services, said the next steps will include seeking approval from the state Public Works Board in April and receiving a real estate due diligence letter. From there, officials will attend a ground lease meeting with the Department of Finance and other state agencies. Then comes selection of the design and building firm and construction design documents. Officials hope to break ground in the summer 2020 with an estimated 18-month construction timeline.

“We’re a little behind,” McCoy said. “With large projects like this, all those agencies are impacted by the tremendous amount of work.”

Jim Arnold, Yuba County chief probation officer, said the current juvenile hall and Camp Singer facilities are dilapidated and the project is the chance to invest in the area’s youth.

“The linear designs (of present facilities) don’t lend themselves to creating positive learning environments,” Arnold said Thursday. “The new juvenile hall will create more of an atmosphere to allow staff to be more positive and create an environment where kids want to start changing.”

The new facility will be designed to have two pods of 16 rooms, play fields and a garden, as well as a more circular design so staff can have better view of the youth; currently, kids and staff mostly communicate through control room speakers. 

“When they’re incarcerated, they’re scared,” Arnold said. “If there’s more of a visual of a positive adult, it alleviates their anxiety versus being locked up.”

Arnold said any time counties pool resources together, it provides more opportunities for the kids to get new and different programming. Juvenile Hall and its Camp Singer program offer a number of programs including education, behavioral health therapy, life skills, aggression replacement therapy, grief support, faith development, physical fitness training and employment preparedness. Both programs also already support Colusa County juveniles. 

Camp Singer, which is the post-disposition program, contracts with 10 other regional counties as far north as Redding and as far south as Santa Cruz. The aim is to bring in around $400,000 in revenue each year, Arnold said, though he doesn’t think that goal will be reached this year, due to the declining rate of juvenile incarceration.

What will happen to the current juvenile hall buildings is not known, Arnold said, as the buildings are in rough shape. But he is looking forward to the positive changes the new facility will bring.

“It’s long overdue,” Arnold said. “It’s something we need, it will be beneficial to the youth.