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Irvine, Lake Forest Turn Down Offer to Cap Jail Expansion

The cities reject supervisor's plan to limit Musick facility to 3,600 beds, call for an advisory committee.

April 12, 2001|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Irvine and Lake Forest officials Wednesday rejected county Supervisor Cynthia P. Coad's final offer on a compromise limiting the planned expansion of the James A. Musick Branch Jail and called for the creation of a jail system advisory committee instead.

"I believe that both Lake Forest and Irvine let an opportunity pass them by," a disappointed Coad said after the meeting.

Coad, chairwoman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, had offered to cap Musick at 3,600 beds, less than half of the 7,968 beds the county is allowed to have there. In exchange, Lake Forest and Irvine would have to find a new jail site.

"I'm disappointed," said Orange Mayor Mark Murphy, who attended the meeting to protect the city's interests after several remote jail sites in Orange had been mentioned by Irvine and Lake Forest in earlier negotiations.

"Both Irvine and Lake Forest basically ignored Coad's idea and came up with plans for more meetings. Frankly, they seem to be more interested in meetings rather than a solution."

The county has the authority to expand Musick, which now accommodates 1,256 inmates, by up to 6,712 beds.

The facility sits just 700 feet from some Lake Forest homes. Irvine and Lake Forest waged a legal battle against the expansion plan, but the state Supreme Court last month allowed the expansion to proceed.

Coad's offer was rejected in a memo sent to her from Lake Forest City Councilmen Richard Dixon and Peter Herzog, and Irvine Mayor Larry Agran and Councilman Chris Mears.

While Murphy and Coad reacted with disappointment, the South County officials said they were optimistic that a solution to the Musick expansion and the county's long-term jail needs could eventually be reached.

"No one said we shouldn't talk about Musick anymore," Herzog said.

"There is a chance for a solution, and if all parties work together, that can still be achieved. We are trying to address the issues being raised, addressing Musick, finding a long-term site and addressing the jail bed needs."

For Coad, however, Wednesday may mark the end of her attendance at Musick discussions.

"I thought this was palatable and a win-win situation," she said. "I certainly feel like I've reached out. But they're still talking like it's negotiation because of the court case. But that ended a long time ago."

The county does not have funds to begin the expansion immediately.

But the Sheriff's Department intends to go forward with plans to refurbish Musick's laundry and kitchen, Coad said.

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