A proposal to expand the county's branch jail near The City shopping center in Orange rather than build a new, 1,500-bed jail near Anaheim Stadium was warmly received Saturday by mobile home park residents near the stadium.
But Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley said premature discussion of the jail expansion might jeopardize that plan, which must still be negotiated with the City of Orange.
"We're attempting to find all alternatives that might be a possibility," Riley said. "But to get into these areas that involve approvals and other jurisdictions, the difficulty of talking about it . . . can cause somebody to have an injured feeling and blow the whole deal."
Orange County officials are considering adding 1,018 beds to the Theo Lacy branch jail in Orange, more than doubling its size, officials said Friday. The Theo Lacy jail is located on City Drive in a county complex that includes an animal shelter, Probation Department headquarters and Juvenile Hall, across from a large shopping mall.
Inmates Awaiting Trial
The Theo Lacy jail has 720 dormitory-style beds and holds male inmates awaiting trial or who are sentenced to serve terms of under one year. It is classified as intermediate to low security. Expansion of Theo Lacy, county officials said Friday, could be an alternative to building a new jail near Anaheim Stadium.
"As long as it isn't built around me, I don't care," said Jean Barnett, one of about 250 residents of a mobile home park at 1400 Douglas Road, Anaheim, near the proposed jail site at the intersection of Douglas Road and Katella Avenue. "We moved in here a couple years ago thinking we would be safe and comfortable. We certainly wouldn't feel comfortable with it (a new jail) on Douglas."
Another mobile home park resident, Kenneth Block, said he favors expanding Theo Lacy "if you have the room . . . rather than disrupting" the Katella-Douglas neighborhood by building a new jail.
The intersection of Katella and Douglas already is congested and the jail would bring additional traffic, Block said.
"You'll have police cars there, you'll have visitors," he said. "It's bad enough when the Angels play at home or the Rams play at home. Wouldn't it be much less costly to expand rather than to build?"
Dan Wooldridge, an aide to Supervisor Don R. Roth, said four new buildings can be built at Theo Lacy within a year for about $30 million, including up to $25 million in state funds.
The proposed Anaheim jail, on the other hand, has an estimated cost of $140 million or more and is ineligible for state funds.
One of Several Options
Roger R. Stanton, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said Saturday that the Theo Lacy jail expansion "is in line with several options the board has been looking at."
But Stanton declined to discuss the expansion, saying that he first wants to make sure that all members of the board have been informed of the proposal.
Supervisor Riley, however, said the matter has been discussed in closed session of the board. He added that "premature" public discussion of the issue could be a stumbling block to pending negotiations.
"The thing that disturbs me very much," Riley said, "is this is a matter that was discussed by the Board of Supervisors in executive session. An untimely comment can cause concern."
Disclosure of the Lacy expansion plan came a day after Sheriff-Coroner Brad Gates was found in contempt of court for not incarcerating six men on days in March when there were empty beds in the branch jails.
Don Wooldridge, an aide to Roth, said Friday, "There will be some heat that will come" with the plans for the expansion of Lacy. But he said the county will assure the City of Orange that the added inmates won't increase the danger to the community.
Apparently not all residents of the mobile home park near the proposed Anaheim jail site are vehemently opposed to the jail's construction there.
"Whatever they chose to do, I'll live with," said mobile home park resident Betty Eakins. "I don't really want one in my backyard, but if it happens, it happens."