BY SONYA SMITH IRVINE WORLD NEWS
City Council members are looking to do anything possible to oppose the Sheriff Mike Carona’s plans to expand the James A. Musick jail.
That comes after Mayor Beth Krom met with city officials, county Supervisor Bill Campbell and Carona. Krom said that Carona will rent out excess beds to at the jail that sits just across Irvine’s southern border. Krom also said that Carona does not intend to involve Irvine in planning the expansion, except on items such as landscaping.
“I was disappointed with the tone of the meeting,” Krom said. “I strongly feel that Irvine should have been at the table (to discuss the Musick expansion plans).”
Carona said he does not plan on adding beds at Musick so he can rent those beds out to other agencies.
“There was never any intention in the jail build-out for renting out beds,” Carona said Wednesday. “I have no idea where the mayor (Beth Krom) comes up with this and it’s getting to be a little tiresome.”
Carona said that negotiations with Irvine on the expansion stopped because Irvine leaders left the bargaining table, expecting to win a lawsuit that would have stopped the jail expansion.
He said his eight years of discussions with Lake Forest officials have led to a compromise: rather than building a maximum security jail to 7,811 beds (the maximum allowed), the jail will be expanded to 4,400 beds at minimum and medium security level (more beds could be added if a study finds they are needed).
“That was a compromise I didn’t have to do, but we kept a good-faith effort working with the city of Lake Forest,” Carona said.
Carona said that the Musick expansion includes only what is needed in the county, but if he all of a sudden had excess beds, he would rent them out.
“If I was given the luxury of excess beds – there are a series of things I would do; renting them out is certainly one of those, but it’s not the only thing,” he said.
If beds at Musick Jail, once it is expanded, are rented to the federal government, the county could make about $2.2 million per 100 federal prisoners each year.
All City Council members have expressed concerns over the Musick expansion.
Councilwoman Christina Shea called the bed rental possibility “more alarming than I can say.” Councilman Larry Agran said that the sheriff’s intention to discuss only landscaping with the city for the expanded jail is the same as “putting lipstick on a pig.”
The council has asked the city staff to put together a strategy on how Irvine can fight the Musick expansion. The plan is expected to come back to the council in one to two months.
Musick sits on 100 acres of unincorporated land about 700 feet from Lake Forest homes and about a mile from Irvine businesses.
During the first phase of expansion, which could take up to seven years, 1,000 beds now housed in decades-old temporary wooden dormitories and tents will be moved into new buildings, said Rick Dostal, director of finance and administration for the Sheriff’s Department.
An additional 1,000 beds and several administrative buildings would also be added during the first phase, Dostal said.
Register staff writer Kimberly Edds contributed to this report.