The County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to spend $2.9 million to buy 157 acres near Santa Paula for a new jail, although it is not certain how costly it will be to clean contaminated soil on the site.
Supervisor John Flynn voted against the purchase. His concerns were echoed by several people who warned the supervisors against buying the site near Todd Road and the Santa Paula Freeway before oil and gasoline contamination is cleaned up.
“It is unwise to gamble with the taxpayers’ money,” area rancher Roger Orr said.
He said it would be imprudent to buy the land without ascertaining the amount of contamination and how much it will cost to clean up. The county’s estimate of $500,000 for the cleanup is simply an estimate, he said, and the cost could run much higher.
“We don’t know what you are obligating yourself and the public to,” said Donna Pinkerton, wife of rancher Robert Pinkerton, one of the most vocal opponents of the site. She urged that an environmental impact report be completed on the site before the county buys it.
Underground gasoline storage tanks and four aboveground oil storage tanks have been removed from the property and the soil decontaminated. The soil that remains to be cleaned is on the southern portion of the site, which won’t be needed immediately for construction of the jail.
Art Goulet, county director of public works, said the county received two estimates on treating the contaminated soil. The northern half of the property has a “clean bill of health,” he said, and the southern half won’t be built upon soon.
He said tests so far have shown no water contamination from the oil and gas tanks.
Earlier this month, the county moved to condemn the property, which is owned by Michael and Nancy Brucker. The Bruckers, who farm lemons on the land, had refused the county’s earlier offer of $2.6 million. Last week, both sides settled on $2.9 million.
The first phase of the jail will cover 15 acres, cost $51 million and house 752 inmates. When the complex is finished, it will accommodate 2,306 inmates in buildings covering 40 to 45 acres.