Buck Johns

Johns defends his reputation in the Victor Valley

June 07, 2014 7:38 PM

ADELANTO • One of two high-profile developers who wants to bring a 3,280-bed jail to Adelanto that would house an overflow population of Los Angeles County inmates defended his past dealings in the Victor Valley this week and said the new facility would bring a much-needed boost to the local economy.

William Buck Johns was involved in at least five major planned projects located in or near Victorville in the past decade. Each saw varying levels of success. They included the High Desert Power Project, Desert Xpress, Victorville 2 Power Plant, Foxborough power plant and an EB-5 Immigrant Investor facility.

Only one of those projects has realized its full potential, but Johns explains that in some cases issues arose that were out of his control, such as the Great Recession that halted financing by Goldman Sachs on the Victorville 2 Power Plant in 2008.

Johns said his latest proposal in Adelanto, a plan pitched to Los Angeles County officials last month, would create 4,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities for local residents. He touts that the $332 million price tag to build the facility would be “one of the largest investments ever made” in the Victor Valley.

“This is a staggering project and if we land it; every person and every business in the High Desert benefits — big time,” Johns said. “It could be an economic boon to the city.”

In a memo given to Los Angeles County officials, John’s business partner Doctor Crants said that the Adelanto facility would save L.A. County $674 million in capital costs and relieve its overcrowding issues. It would be ready to house inmates in two years, a quicker timetable than another plan they’re looking at, and would require L.A. County to make zero capital contributions. In return, Adelanto would ask L.A. County to sign a 20-year bed-use agreement at $88 per inmate per day, or about $104 million per year.

Former Victorville Mayor Terry Caldwell, who served on the Victorville City Council from 1972 to 2010, said he’s envious the jail is being proposed in Adelanto and not in “his city.”

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