As fears grow that Los Angeles County may for the second time in a year back out of a deal to use the Taft Correctional facility, Taft is going to look at a back-up plan.
The city is going back to talk to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house state inmates.
The state is not their first choice, but now that it looks as if L.A. County may, at the last minute, pull out of a deal the city has been trying to secure for two years.
The city may have no choice.
Dealing with the state again is not the best answer, city officials say, but at the same time the city is getting to the point that it needs to find a way – some way – to reopen the CCF and bring revenue into the city or serious cutbacks in city services may result.
The city thought it was just a few weeks away from reopening the CCF after the L.A. County board of Supervisors approved a contract that could pay the city as much as $70 million over five years.
But Tuesday night in an interview on public radio station KPPC, an aide to Supervisor Gloria Molina said Molina will be asking the supervisors to reverse their decision and void the contract.
Molina has concerns about Los Angeles County getting drawn into a lawsuit Taft filed against the CDCR.
Taft Mayor Paul Linder said the city has assured L.A. County that the suit will not affect L.A. County.
Linder said Wednesday that the announcement caught Taft off-guard.
He city filed a suit in 2012 to recover the ongoing costs associated with the shutdown of the CCF I November 2011 and prevent he state from leasing the CCF for $1 pr year starting in 2017.
The case is scheduled to go to trial in January 2014
Only yesterday he had been interviewed for an article about he CCF reopening with L.A. County inmates.
“We were kind of surprised,” Linder said.
The city will keep the door open with L.A. County, Linder said, at least for the next week, but at the same time it is going to reopen talks with the state.
“Our plans are to still work with L.A. County but to enter into talks with the state again,” Linder said late Wednesday morning. “We are trying to assure L.A. County that the lawsuit we have with the state is not a deal breaker.”
The contract with Los Angeles is considered much better for the city because it gives the city the security of a five year deal with start up money up front.
Page 2 of 2 - The CDCR wants some improvements made to the CCF, including a fenced sally port to load and unload prisoners, at the city's expense.
The state only wants to sign one year contracts, giving the city less security that the 5-year deal they thought they had with Los Angles County.
City council and staff have said repeatedly they would much rather deal with L.A. County. But they are not going to wait any longer for L.A. County.
If the current contract doesn't go in effect as planned, Taft will turn its back and look elsewhere. Right now, the state is the best option if L.A. balks again.
Linder tried to put the best face on the situation.
“I think either contract is going to be good for the city of Taft but L.A. is a little better,” he said.
It's at the point the city has to find some way to open the CCF again to bring in revenue, or its budget could be cut deeply. About 50 people lost their jobs when the CCF closed, and now the cuts could force layoffs in other city departments.
“If we don't have a contract in the next six months we would have to make some serious cutbacks. We don't know when the layoffs would come yet, but it would certainly affect the delivery of city services to the citizens of Taft.”