SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria branch jail overseen by the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Office closed its doors Sunday night.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown says losing nearly $6 million from his budget forced the closure. The county had to trim more than $35 million from its 2017-18 fiscal year budget to balance the books and is already facing a fiscal deficit.
"It's a tough situation," Brown said in June ahead of the closure. We just had no choice. It's nothing we wanted to do. There's no funding in our budget for it."
"That's pretty crazy stuff," says Santa Maria resident Carol Swift. There's a lot of crime in our area, we need one."
Sheriff Brown says his office will be running on a "bare bones" budget. 35 full time positions have been cut from the department.
"I'm actually shocked just to hear that," says Steve Swift. "That's pretty ridiculous, every town needs a jail."
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino has spoken out against the jail in the past, saying the closure is going to affect the community and those out on the street. There will be fewer deputies patrolling the streets of towns like Orcutt. Anytime someone is arrested in the north county, they will be taken to Santa Barbara.
"How it really affects us is that it takes those deputies off the street for a given period of time," says SBSO Commander Kelli Moore. Deputies will be forced to make the hour long drive to and from Santa Barbara after arrests. The Sheriffs Office tells us this is a move no one wanted to make.
"It really hurts us, it hurts the community, it's just one of those things with budgets being the way they are we have to make contingencies for."
The long term solution is well underway. A new jail west of Santa Maria is set to open in Spring 2019.
The jail was moved to part-time status in 2011 because of budget issues before returning to full-time in 2013.