Linder takes "a leap of faith" and approves 41/2-year, $51-million contract

The Taft City Council approved a 4½ -year, $51-million contact with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to reopen the city's Community Correctional Center Thursday night.

Now it's a waiting game to make sure the state approves the contract, to see if the CCF will finally reopen after two years of desperate efforts and last-minute disappointments.

If the state approves the contract the city has OK'd, the facility should be open again sometime in February .

That will put about 60 people back to work, and allow the CCF to start repaying the city about $1.5 million in loans to cover unemployment and other costs of closing the facility.

The vote to approve the contract was unanimous but far from enthusiastic.

The special meeting started without the usual invocation, a point that Councilman Dave Noerr mentioned.

"If ever we have signed a contract with the hope that The Almighty makes sure the people on the other end uphold their end of the contract, it's this one," Noerr said

Mayor Paul Linder agreed.

"I'm going to take a leap of faith here," he said before voting in favor of the contract.

It was the CDCR that removed the prisoners two years ago when AB109 was implemented, and the deal the city is getting is not as lucrative as one with Los Angeles County that was cancelled at the last minute.

In addition, the city is suing the CDCR for the cost of closing the facility in November 2011.

"Sometimes you have to swallow a pill that you'd rather not swallow," Councilman Dave Noerr said. "Currently, it is as good as we have available to us...therefore I will suport it."

Linder said he was voting in favor of it with reservations.

He wants to see the state sign the contract and see the inmates getting off the buses before he will be happy.

"My concern I the state is going to have to uphold their end of the deal," he said after the meeting.

Mayor pro tem Orchel Krier echoed those concerns.

Twice before the city has approved contracts (both times with Los Angeles County) and twice before they have been rejected at the last moment.

"I hope the third times the charm," Krier said. "I'm not going to be happy until they sign the contract of their end. I know they can still change their minds."

The council also approved an emergency contract with Black Hall Construction to make some alterations to the CCF, including construction of a sally port big enough to cover a bus, a second perimeter fence an access road around the facility.

If the state ratifies the contract, it will run through June 30, 2018.