Breaking from the ranks

The mayor sides with the lefties on fee increase to improve the county jail

We like to give credit where credit is due, and so this week we’re giving props to Chico Mayor Mark Sorensen for breaking from his conservative colleagues by voting to allow the city to enter a decade-long agreement with the county to collect a new development impact fee to improve the county jail.

That fee will be levied upon those who purchase new single- and multifamily housing units, at a cost of $455 and $363, respectively. The cost for mobile homes is $372. The money will be used to leverage $40 million in state grant funding for construction to expand the existing, overcrowded jail.

Expansion of the facility has become a necessity in the wake of the passage of AB 109, the so-called prison realignment law. That law has overburdened county jails with certain offenders who previously would’ve served their terms in state prison, which in turn forced the jails to become creative in keeping tabs on the nonviolent offenders released early to make room for the others.

A member of the local construction community voiced opposition to tacking on yet another fee to the myriad already in place for new construction, and he has a point. However, the strain on the jail—not to mention all other governmental services—only worsens with the growth of our communities.

Moreover, as was pointed out during the meeting, the fee is already in place in the unincorporated areas of the county. So, what the council’s decision does is bring the cities in line with the existing fees being paid by our county neighbors.

Nobody likes such fees, but sometimes they’re necessary. We’re glad Sorensen broke from the ranks and made this rational decision.