SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County's new billion dollar budget calls for cuts to county services including public safety and dozens of job losses or job eliminations.
For several years the north county jail on Foster Road near Santa Maria has been on the chopping block as the County Board of Supervisors hammers out the annual county budget.
This year the Foster Road jail did not survive the budget ax as part of more than $5 million in cuts to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department.
The cuts include the elimination of 35 full-time positions in what Sheriff Bill Brown describes as a "bare bones" operating budget.
"We felt a duty to advise you and to advise the public of what what the anticipated impacts of the projected reductions are going to be", Sheriff Brown told the Board of Supervisors during final budget hearings last week.
The closure of the Foster Road jail, which costs the Sheriff's Department about a million dollars a year to staff and operate, will have an immediate impact on local law enforcement agencies in the Santa Maria Valley, including Santa Maria Police, Guadalupe Police and the CHP, and how they handle people taken into custody.
"That Foster Road jail is the most inefficient jail that we have", says Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino who has fought in recent budget cycles to keep the Foster Road jail open, "there's less revenue coming into the county and we just can't meet all the demands and so this is one of them."
"This one's going to actually affect people on the street", Lavagnino says about the Foster Road jail closure, "there's going to be less Sheriff's deputies patrolling in Orcutt, anytime they make an arrest they have to transfer down to Santa Barbara, anybody in Santa Maria that makes an arrest, they have to go to Santa Barbara, and the CHP, but the cold hard reality is if they kept that jail open and back-filled the employees from the main jail, there would just be fewer people in the main jail."
"We do have a long term solution and that is the building of the north county jail", Lavagnino says about the new county jail now under construction just west of Santa Maria, "Its really hard for me now to go to my other Board members and say hey, we need an extra million to keep the Foster Road jail open, when we're already putting 9 and a half million dollars into this year's budget for the long term solution."
"I know its a huge impact for the Santa Maria Police Department, Highway Patrol", Lavagnino says, "anytime they arrest somebody they're going to have to drive down there, but at least now they can build it into their schedule that this is the way it is."
The new north county jail on the southwest corner of Betteravia and Black Roads is now under construction and is scheduled to be completed by 2019 and is expected to ease the county's ongoing jail concerns and challenges including overcrowding.
There's an updated video link of the new north county jail construction site at www.sbsheriff.org.