Inmate construction training program shut down following reports of safety concerns, shoddy work

Lee Howard report
Lee Howard included this photo in his report

A program to train and employ Mendocino County inmates for construction projects, contracted by Northern California Construction Training Inc. (NCCT), has been shut down following reports of shoddy work on a house on the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds in Ukiah, The Ukiah Daily Journal Reports.

The program, which began in early 2016, was meant to give inmates a chance to learn construction skills on the job with instruction from NCCT contractors. In December, they were working on the fair manager’s house, a two-story with a wooden frame built in the 1960s. The work, as of March 13, was “in various stages of completion, as if it had been abruptly stopped,” said Interwest Consulting Group building inspector Joe Guajardo in a report.

The report detailed many aspects of the project that had not been done up to code.

A photo attached to the report appears to show a worker on the roof of a separate structure after a slip, gripping the top in an uncomfortable position.

Lee Howard of North Coast Builders Exchange presented his past concerns with the NCCT program to the Board of Supervisors on June 20.

“There is so much sub-standard work, it is unbelievable,” he said.

Howard said that while the program has some merit, it was overshadowed by improper training and a lack of safety measures. He and other contractors felt the program robbed them of a job they would have done right. “We look at it as taking work away from the private sector,” he said.

County supervisors, nevertheless, approved an agreement with NCCT to extend the termination date from Dec. 31, 2016, to June 2, 2017 and pay an extra $64,585 for work completed during the extension period, for a total of $240,494. NCCT asked for the extension on Dec. 15, according to Cathy White of Mendocino County Probation.

The published report continued:

White said there had been confusion about the program’s funding source, as well as a budget error in NCCT’s proposal, leading to county counsel getting involved.

Although NCCT did not provide a report explaining what exactly warranted the extra money or why they dropped the ball, the supervisors decided, rather than spend staff time and resources investigating the matter, it was best to simply accept the agreement and move forward.

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