Open House Informs Public about New County Detention Facility

A Balfour Beatty Construction representative speaks during the Open House event held on Wednesday afternoon.
A Balfour Beatty Construction representative speaks during the company’s open house event held Wednesday afternoon.

EL CENTRO — Balfour Beatty Construction held an open house event at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Tuesday evening to inform local businesses and workers about its design-build project for a new Imperial County adult detention facility.

“We wanted to share with the local community what’s happening with the project, where we are, and to get them aware of opportunities and make sure they’re aware of what’s coming so they can get involved,” explained Sofia A. Cavalli, the main speaker of the event and Diversity Director of Balfour Beatty Construction. “It’s our commitment to have as many local businesses included in the project as possible.”

The construction company was awarded a contract for the project defined as the Imperial County Oren R. Fox Adult Detention Facility. The building will be located adjacent to the existing county Adult Detention Facility.

The open house event provided information about the project, what union jobs will be available, and how and when the bid for remaining general work was handled. Both Imperial County and Balfour Beatty seek to continue and further the plan to include local businesses and local workers on the project. The board established a 25 percent local business goal and 40 percent local worker goal.

“I think it’s going to benefit the local community in a number of ways,” said Cavalli. “One is that by having a touch point with local businesses and local workers, there’s going to be that economic development piece, but I think the project itself stands for something that’s very different. The project is wanting to go farther than what is usually the case when you think of putting individuals in jail.”

The $28 million project consists of a new, approximately 62,000 square feet two-story medium security adult detention center and an approximately 8,000 square foot building for a video visitation center and vocational print shop on approximately 2.3 acres of county-owned land located adjacent to the county’s existing jail located in El Centro.

The project will provide approximately 274 beds and will include housing, healthcare, program, intake and release, administrative, and support services space. The existing laundry building will be demolished to make way for the new adult detention center. Construction is set to begin in July 2016 and will be completed in December 2017.

“I just think that that there’s, at the macro level, this greater good that’s going to happen with this project that hopefully serves as a national model,” said Cavalli, “and then for the local community they get to be part of that and that El Centro gets recognition for that and the leadership of El Centro gets recognition for that and that again, hopefully, the community has something to feel proud of that they’ve been a part of. And then as we’re building this project, we can get involved in the local community such as involving local businesses and local workers. It might even benefit something like high school students to construction careers, maybe they’ve never thought of that before. There’s a number of ways we can be a good partner to the community.”

“It’s going to be a great addition to the community,” commented Chief Jamie Clayton, Correctional Chief of the ICSO. “We right now have older facilities and the design philosophy in the ’60s and ’70s when they were built was about containment, and the philosophy now for corrections and rehabilitation has shifted and it’s more about programming and rehabilitating offenders instead of just a containment model.”

“So with the new facility and the new philosophy of inmate management and inmate supervision going in, it’s going to have a huge impact on the community and the success of the offenders when they’re released,” Clayton said. “We’re really excited and I think we’re going to be working with the county PIO in the near future to do some community outreach information about the new facility and we’re also going to be doing an open house at the existing facility for community members that had never had the opportunity to tour the existing facility. We want them to see the old facility and then we’ll walk them through the floor plan of the new jail as well. I think we discussed holding this event in September and again in November.”

Sofia A. Cavalli, diversity director of Balfour Beatty Construction, speaks during the open house event.