Friday, August 6, 2010

CDCR participates in signing ceremony with San Joaquin leaders

Peace pact signed
City, county, chamber ink deal for prison hospital

By Joe Goldeen
Record Staff Writer
August 03, 2010 12:00 AM

STOCKTON - All the players in a public, acrimonious dispute over placing a state prison hospital in Stockton came together Monday to sign an agreement to pave the way for construction to begin this fall.

Appropriately held at the offices of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce - which spearheaded the community's objections to the project's environmental impact report - representatives of Stockton, San Joaquin County, the chamber, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation joined federal prison health care receiver J. Clark Kelso in a signing ceremony witnessed by dozens of local and state officials and community members.

"This truly is an historic occasion," chamber President Rick Goucher said.

Prison hospital particulars

• 1.2 million square feet on more than 144 acres near southwest corner of Arch and Austin roads (site of the former Karl Holton Youth Correctional Facility), Stockton
• 1,722-bed subacute medical and mental health care facility
• $900 million projected construction cost
• $300 million projected gross annual operating cost; $250 million net operating cost based on saving $50 million annually from decreased population transfers and outside hospital costs
• 9,200 construction jobs and $1 billion in economic output
• 1,700 construction workers on site daily during seven-month peak period in summer 2012
• 2,400 permanent, year-round jobs with estimated $220 million payroll
• Ground preparation expected to begin in late fall, with construction to begin next spring; completion and activation of hospital projected for fall 2013

Recounting the process that started in 2007 when the chamber challenged the EIR over the 1,722-bed subacute California Health Care Facility-Stockton hospital's effects on the region, Goucher noted his approval when the city and the county joined the chamber's lawsuit against the state.

"That put more teeth into it," Goucher said. "Now we've gotten to the point where we're signing this. No, we didn't get everything we wanted, but at the end of the day, I think it will be good for the city, county and the state."

San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Chairman Carlos Villapudua and Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston agreed.

"This is a major milestone that produces a one-of-a-kind partnership between the city, county, state and the federal receiver," Villapudua said.

Johnston noted that objections needed to be raised to "protect our local community. We needed to involve the citizens in whatever happens in this process."

Key elements of the settlement include up to $1 million in sales tax revenue from the purchase of construction materials, hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct aid to schools and local government, $3 million in road improvements, and the state's commitment to hire county residents during the construction and activation phases of the new hospital.

Or, as Johnston said: "Jobs, jobs, jobs. The hope is these will be high-paying jobs with good benefits. The challenge now will be the education pipeline," to ensure the new hospital does not drain existing health care providers of trained personnel in a region chronically suffering from a shortage.

Attorney Steve Herum, a founding partner of the Herum Crabtree law firm, who was described by Johnston as "the Darth Vader of our effort" for his role in negotiating the settlement, deferred the praise and instead credited "the vision, boldness and courage of our local and elected leaders that took the step of standing up to the state for the well-being of the community. This is their day."

Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/goldeenblog.

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