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County Creates Agency to Finance Gypsum Canyon Jail

Times Staff Writer

Orange County supervisors voted Friday to relinquish some of their control over the proposed Gypsum Canyon jail by creating a new government agency to finance the construction with a proposed half-cent sales tax.

The decision was forced by a recent court decision in which San Diego’s jail construction sales tax was invalidated because of control by that county’s supervisors.

A judge ruled that such a tax requires the approval of two-thirds of the voters if the supervisors control the revenues but may be approved by simple majority vote if a separate agency is placed in charge.

“We’re moving more and more into government by committee,” said Supervisor Don R. Roth, but “when you take this long to knock something out, you’ve got to make sure that it’s legal.”

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Orange County is tentatively planning to put the sales tax on the June, 1990, ballot.

Makeup of Agency

Orange County’s new agency would include two supervisors, two city-elected officials and one public member elected by the other four. It would be responsible for submitting the ballot measure and then overseeing the spending of the tax revenue.

With the supervisors’ vote, the proposed agency will now be added to special state legislation that is required before the sales tax can be put on the ballot. The legislation has been authored by state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach).

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The county counsel’s office said the new arrangement should satisfy legal concerns because a majority of the panel is not from county government. But the selection of the members has the potential of political conflict.

The Gypsum Canyon jail has been aggressively contested by the nearby cities of Anaheim and Yorba Linda. It is also opposed by two of the county supervisors--Roth of Anaheim and Gaddi H. Vasquez, whose district includes the jail site.

Under the provisions adopted by the supervisors Friday, the new agency could conceivably include a majority of elected officials opposed to the Gypsum Canyon site.

Predicts No Platform

Supervisors Chairman Thomas F. Riley said, however, that he does not think the panel will become a platform for jail opponents.

“I don’t think so, and I think this is the best way,” Riley said. “I think we certainly need to have a solution to the problem, and this seems to me to be a way of getting at it.”

The supervisors are under pressure from a federal judge to relieve overcrowding in the jail system, and the Gypsum Canyon jail is the cornerstone of their plans. But the 6,000-bed jail is expected to cost more than $700 million, and the county has no idea where it will get the money.

Primary Plan

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The sales tax, which would also be used to build a $250-million courthouse in Santa Ana, is the county’s primary plan for funding.

The supervisors vote Friday came in a meeting of the Legislative Planning Commission, which includes all of the supervisors, County Administrative Officer Larry Parrish and county department heads. Only three supervisors were present, however--Riley, Roth and Roger R. Stanton.


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