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Open House Sheds Light on Expansion of Las Colinas Detention Center

Work is underway on the $221 million project that will nearly triple the size of the detention center in the heart of Santee.

Read more about Las Colinas

An "" with the company constructing the was held at Santee on Thursday. Numerous city leaders and curious residents came to see renderings of the plans and ask about the project that is underway.

The jail expansion is proceeding after overcoming filed by the city of Santee and a developer whose property sits near the site of the project. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department operates , on 15.98 acres of county-owned land in the city of Santee.

According to Balfour Betty Construction, early site work on the $221 million project started recently and will continue for six months. Phase One includes cnstruction 17 of a total 28 buildings, taking 18 months, followed by 90 days of "decomissioning," otherwise known as demolition of the old facility. Phase Two finishes the project over the following 15 months.

The expansion, nearly tripling the size of the facility to 45 acres, is due to be completed in early 2016. The inmates will be housed on-site during construction.

The aging facility, with many temporary structures, was originally intended to house juvenile girls in 1965 and now acts as the facility for women arrested in San Diego County. County authorities have sought to upgrade the facility following numerous about overcrowded conditions. General funds from the county and $100 million from a state prison funding bill known as AB 900 will cover its costs.

Vice-Mayor , a vocal critic of the expansion, attended the open house and said what he saw was an improvement on the original plans.

"I like that you've made it look better, but it's still a ," McNelis said to a Balfour Betty representative.

Inmates are currently released throughout the day at Las Colinas, and according to the Sheriff's Department that schedule is set to continue at the expanded facility, but the location will be changing. Right now, inmates are released onto Cottonwood Avenue which feeds into Mission Gorge Road, but after the expansion they will be released onto Riverview Parkway which feeds into Magnolia Avenue, just north of the . According to Balfour Betty, a well lit bus stop will be constructed just south of the entrnace on Magnolia Avenue.

Balfour Betty Construction also held a meeting with the Home Owners Association of the Mobile Home Community on Thursday, wich will sit across the street, 700 feet from the expanded dentention center. Some residents of the park and other nearby residents expressed concerns about releasing the inmates into their neighborhood.

Construction will cause some lane closures on Magnolia Avenue across from New Frontier Mobile Park, but Balfour Betty Construction confirmed that Magnolia will remain open throughout construction. New sidewalks and pedestrian amenities will be installed in the area.

It was hoped that Riverview Parkway, which currently runs behind Trolley Square, would connect with Magnolia Avenue, providing quicker access to the shopping center. But, while the jail access road perpendicular to Magnolia will be named Riverview Parkway (see maps in media box), it will dead end, and will not connect to the existing Riverview Parkway, at least not now.

is scheduled to move into the complex and it is possible they could develop Riverview Parkway as part of development of sports fields in the area.

When asked what the area will look like while driving past it on Magnolia Avenue, Balfour Betty described a 15 foot climb-proof mesh tan wall without razorwire, native trees and vegetation, so that it would be hard to tell that your driving past a detention center. The project is also hoping to attain LEED Gold certification.

It was mentioned that the county is considering development opportunities along Magnolia Avenue.

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Do you have any questions you'd like answered about the Las Colinas expansion in Santee? Leave a comment or send them to Steven.Bartholow@patch.com and we'll get your questions answered.

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buzidebbee July 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Glad to see this project moving forward. It means construction jobs and detention jobs for our community. Every new job counts these days.
santee citizen July 14, 2012 at 12:21 AM
it would be nice if you could point out north on some of those pictures. then i could get a better idea of the layout.
Rae Russell July 14, 2012 at 04:27 AM
It would have been nice to see some of the 221 million dollars spent on renovating or rebuilding public schools and putting our teachers back to work. Sounds like the folks who are making the decisions rather spend money on criminals instead of investing in the lives and future of our children. smh
SanteeCitizen July 14, 2012 at 03:27 PM
So sad that they are building this. Please tell the City that many residents will look to move away, including myself. I plan to move before it is finalized. I wish the city luck as this once small town that had potential with all the work Mayor Randy Voepel put into turning it around will still have bail bonds offices up and down Mission Gorge and Magnolia and everywhere else in town. Plus more criminals being let out on our streets to wander Town Center and other areas. As this detention center grows it will reshape the makeup of the city. Do you really think that this is the last of the future expansion plans? What is going to happen in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years? It is very unfortunate for Santee. They are trying to put lipstick on a pig in the heart of Santee.
Shari Lynn Turner July 14, 2012 at 06:41 PM
WE NEED TO MAKE THE BEST OF THE SITUATION. As a long-time resident of Santee, I too was very much against the expansion, and thought the whole facility should be moved to South San Diego County, where the male jails/prisons are located. Unfortunately, it was a County decision, not City, so we are "stuck" with the plan. On that note, I suggest that as we accept the reality of the expansion, we make the best of it, by doing what we can as citizens to lessen any negative impact upon Santee. The best way to do that is to focus efforts on doing what we can do reduce recidivism, or repeat criminal activity. We need to offer a center (should be county-funded, and located adjacent to the jail!) that would help these women upon release, with mental health issues, alcohol/substance abuse, housing, job training, and other things that have been proven to lessen recidivism. I have been volunteering once a month at Las Colinas for the last year, and have found overall that MOST of these women really WANT to change their lives and behaviors and circumstances. They WANT to be home with their children, sober, working "regular" jobs...but the obstacles they find upon release are daunting, and most don't have the "tools" or support needed to navigate their way to a law-abiding lifestyle. Many return to their old neighborhoods/"friends" and fall back into an often-traumatic environment that affects their ability to make good choices, and return thru the "revolving door". ..(cont)
Shari Lynn Turner July 14, 2012 at 06:57 PM
...(cont.) Statistics show that over 85% of the women in Las Colinas are there primarily as a result of crimes related to mental illness and/or substance abuse. And ANYBODY that lives here in Santee and has EVER driven under the influence (you know, a few drinks at a Happy Hour or dinner out or a party) can only say "there for the Grace of God go I". One of the main problems is that there is not enough $$/staff available to provide the vital counseling, therapy (especially for PTSD), skills training, and other resources needed to address the problems cause by their addictions and mental illnesses. Right now, they only have ONE mental health technician, who is very passionate and committed to helping these women learn to make good choices, but only has the time to attend to the inmates with severe emotional disorders. So what am I requesting that we do as Santee citizens? Write/talk with your city/county representatives to request adequate funding to provide the needed resources that can reduce the recidivism. VOLUNTEER at Las Colinas, with your Church or other organization, to speak with the inmates, and give them hope and guidance in leading a crime-free life. Make sure that they have a place when they walk out those doors that can assist them in finding sober-living, job-training, domestic violence and parenting classes, not just a bus stop. And share this info with your neighbors!! Santee CAN make this a win-win situation for all...we have no other choice. Thanks!
bme July 15, 2012 at 03:24 AM
COMPLETELY AGREE!!!
Bill Howell September 13, 2012 at 12:20 AM
I will remember vividly Sheriff Gore's name on the next ballot and recall how he shoved this down our throats when all sense and reason proved it should be in Otay. You can bet there will not be an X next to his name, I don't care who else is running.

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