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Bergeson Links Her OK for Jail to City's

May 30, 1996|RUSS LOAR

Just hours after the county Board of Supervisors agreed to move ahead with plans to expand the James A. Musick Branch Jail near Irvine, Supervisor Marian Bergeson assured wary Irvine City Council members that she would not endorse a final plan without their approval.

"I will make a firm commitment: If the expansion of Musick . . . does not earn your support by the end of the process, then it will not have mine," Bergeson told council members at their Tuesday night meeting.

Earlier that day, supervisors voted unanimously to prepare an environmental impact report for the proposed jail expansion, despite requests for a delay from Irvine and Lake Forest.

The 100-acre Musick Jail houses about 1,000 "low-risk" prisoners in an unincorporated area north of Irvine and west of Lake Forest. The Sheriff's Department estimates from 4,000 to 7,000 new beds are needed to reduce overcrowding.

The county's decision to conduct an environmental impact review of the proposed jail expansion does not mean that the project is imminent, Irvine Mayor Mike Ward said.

"This is an EIR on a project there's no money to build," Ward said. "If there was money to build it, there would be no money to operate it."

Bergeson said she will encourage the county to take a "thorough look" at other potential jail sites closer to the courts complex in Santa Ana.

Ward, though apprehensive about the project, acknowledged the need for more jail space.

"You feel like a hypocrite sitting up here," Ward said. "I'm for public safety and I'm for putting criminals away, then I turn around and say, 'But I don't want them in my backyard.' I think that's what we're all saying all over the county."

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