SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. -

Now is the time to come to the aid of your local civil grand jury, especially if you live in northern Santa Barbara County.

Volunteers are needed to fill openings in the court-run watchdog group.

Santa Barbara County's civil Grand Jury is in need of volunteers, and fast.

"Time is running out, the deadline to apply is this Friday", says Santa Barbara County Jury Commissioner Darrel Parker who also serves as Executive Officer of the County Superior Courts, "we try to get a balanced recruitment throughout the county but traditionally we've had a hard time getting people from the north county to serve, and the speculation is the Grand Jury meets most of the time in Santa Barbara at the courthouse there and that commute can be a deterrent."

The Grand Jury acts primarily as a government watchdog and investigative body that responds mainly to complaints involving county or municipal government, school districts, special districts and local agencies that receive taxpayer funding.

"Then the Grand Jury reviews those complaints and determines as a body whether or not its worthy of an investigation or if it amounts to grumbling or if its an issue that has recently been investigated", Parker says, "they look into areas that most people aren't even aware of, there's a cemetery district, there's a harbor district, there are water districts, vector controls dealing with insects, they can look into wide areas of government."

The Grand Jury typically meets once a week in Santa Barbara but Parker says  he's scouting around for meeting locations in the north county to make it more convenient as well as shared transportation.

"You get $25 a day for the inconvenience of and then if you drive your own vehicle you get reimbursed at 56 cents a mile", Parker says, "so if you are driving from Santa Barbara to Santa Maria or Santa Maria to Santa Barbara, that's about $84 a day which is why I started looking at a Van Pool or a shuttle."

To qualify to serve on the Grand Jury, you must be at least 18 years of age, be a legal Santa Barbara County resident and not have any felony convictions.

To learn more about the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury and how to apply go to: www.sbcourts.org.