STOCKTON, CA - Groundbreaking ceremonies took place in southeast Stockton Thursday where the state's prison system is set to build a huge medical and mental health care facility for inmates.
The project, at 7650 Newcastle Road near the Stockton airport, will cost about $900 million to complete and an estimated $1 billion impact on the Stockton area, say officials.
About 1,700 construction workers will be on site each day. The hospital is expected to then create more than 2,400 civil service jobs.
Despite those benefits, city officials and the Stockton Chamber of Commerce first opposed the project, and threatened legal action against the state.
Their unhappiness was with Receiver Clark Kelso, appointed by the federal government to build a new prison hospital because of what were determined to be poorl conditions in current medical centers.
"The art of politics is compromise. We both knew we'd get together. He had to posture. We had to posture and it worked out well," said Chamber director Douglass Wilhoit.
Part of the compromise was the state's promise to pay for $3 million in road improvements, and close to $700,000 in school improvements.
"If I were in local government, I would have raised opposition too. That's how you cut a deal. You oppose something, say here's the issues, we need help solving them," said Kelso.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Matthew Cate said the 1,700 bed facility will play a big role in solving some of the state's prison problems.
"It allows us to get sick and infirm inmates out of high security prisons and into more of a clinical setting. And we can fill those high security prisons with the inmates we should be worried about," said Cate.
The prison hospital facility is scheduled for opening in December, 2013.