Jobs, jobs, jobs ahead at prison’s medical, mental health facility near Stockton

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Earth movers are digging trenches and leveling grade, cranes are hoisting walls into place, and riding trowels are hovering over freshly poured cement.

And men and women are being put to work on perhaps the largest construction project in California in a decade – the 1,722-bed California Health Care Facility, Stockton just southeast of the intersection of Arch Road and Logistics Drive east of state Highway 99.

At this point, only a couple hundred men and women are working at the site, but in time more – many more – union and nonunion tradesmen and women will be put to work. There will be 5,500 construction jobs with 1,200 workers on hand by the Fourth of July.

“This is really is a red letter day for the city of Stockton,” Mayor Ann Johnston said a luncheon and tour of the construction site. “For the public to see what’s going on here is important.
“This is a good thing that’s happening in our community,” she added. “This is a bright spot in our community.”

Contractors, project managers, heavy machine operators, and the alike have been working at site for a couple of months leveling the grade, digging trenches for drainage and sewer lines, and setting conduits for electrical work. With construction estimated at $700 million to $750 million, as many as 1,700 construction workers will be on the site on a given day. As much as 20 percent of the workforce on the project will be in apprenticeship programs learning a trade that they can take with them to other projects. The bulk of the workers and subcontractors for the project will come from within 50 miles of the project site.

The economic impact from construction alone is expected to be $1 billion. The construction has been highlighted – along with the “Marine Highway” expansion at the Port of Stockton – in economic forecasts for providing momentum in moving San Joaquin County and the rest of the Central Valley out of the recession.

And once the facility is completed and inmates are housed there in December 2013, there will be 2,400 permanent civil service jobs with an annual payroll of $220 million.

“This is an example of how we have moved from a contentious situation to a partnership of partners and friends,” Douglass Wilhoit, chief executive officer of the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, said in praising the “very, very fair” process to eliminate early contentions.

One of the “win-win” results, said Wilhoit, was a 25-bed secure unit at the San Joaquin County General Hospital for inmates requiring medical procedures that won’t be handled at the state facility. There is also a partnership with San Joaquin Delta College to expand its accredited psychiatric technician program and necessary infrastructure improvements will be carried out.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and joint venture contractors Clark/McCarthy and Granite Hensel Phelps JV hosted the tour and luncheon January 5th to show off the progress.

“This is a huge project for any contactor,” Mike Ricker, vice president of the Clark/McCarthy joint venture, said over the ruckus of heavy equipment being used to dig plumbing trenches for the first housing unit. He said this was one of a handful of similarly sized projects in the state and perhaps one of a dozen in the entire nation.

It is not just the bulk of the project, said Shannon Gustine, Hensel Phelps

Construction Co.’s project manager, it is also about how quickly things will be built. The deadline for inmates to be in the facility is Dec. 31, 2013, which means the contractors must be finished several months before that to allow time for various inspections and certifications of the massive facility. Buildings will total nearly 1.2 million square feet on 144 acres.

“It’s basically a small city,” added Mike Meredith, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s project director. “It’s got everything you’d need.”

Besides housing for 1,722 inmates, the facility will have a central utility building, patient-inmate housing clusters, diagnostic and treatment center, warehousing and support facilities, visitor and staff entry building, a central kitchen, and staff training facility. And all LEED Silver certified.

Of course, it also will have a 13-foot tall lethal electrified fence between two perimeter fences, 11 45-foot tall guard towers, external lighting, and 24-hour patrol.

A jobs information fair will be held 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6, at the Stockton Civic Memorial Auditorium, 535 N. Center St., in downtown Stockton. The contractors, state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, subcontractors, trade unions, the city of Stockton, and others will be there with information on applying for jobs at the site and for joining apprenticeship programs to learn trades.
Turn to the February edition of the Central Valley Business Journal for more on the California Health Care Facility, Stockton project. Visit www.chcfstockton.com for more information on the project.

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