COALINGA: State Hospital to Be Built for Sex Offenders
After a two-year search by the state Department of Mental Health, the San Joaquin County town of Coalinga has been chosen as the future site for a $365-million state-run prison hospital for sex offenders, the Los Angeles Times reports. The facility will employ 2,000 psychiatrists, nurses, technicians and support workers once it opens in four years. State mental health officials said that Coalinga won the bid for the facility because it displayed "solid support" for building the state's first new mental health facility in nearly 50 years. The city council voted unanimously for the project and requested $7 million less than other bidders to cover additional road improvement and public accommodations associated with a new prison. Once the state receives environmental clearances, construction is scheduled to begin in 2002 (Rainey, 8/3).
A Boost for the Community
The selection of Coalinga marks "a leap forward in the city's push to boost its economy," the Fresno Bee reports. City Manager George Edes said that the benefits of the facility will outweigh any perceived danger to the community. "Certainly it's not attractive, but you can look at almost anything the same way. You want to have a sausage plant but you hate to have anybody watch how sausage is made," Edes said. Stephen Mayberg, director of California's Department of Mental Health, said, "We feel pretty comfortable addressing issues of safety and security ... We want to be good neighbors with the community we reside in." The Bee notes that one of the advantages Coalinga offered was its effort to train staff for hospital jobs at a local college. "West Hills College is committed to training over 1,100 nurses, 800 psychiatric technicians and 300 registered nurses. We wanted to make sure we brought at least 2,500 jobs to a community that really needed it," Assembly Member Dean Florez said (Kreamer, 8/3).