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Funds lacking for new station

Posted: March 11, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2012 1:30 a.m.
 

The economic downturn that began in 2007 means very little money has accumulated to build a new sheriff’s station in the Santa Clarita Valley, county officials said, in the wake of a preliminary move toward a new station in Castaic.

The same recession means growth patterns in the Santa Clarita Valley have also changed, requiring a new study to determine law enforcement needs, officials said.

A financial study conducted in 2007 was intended to lay down a foundation for the amount of developer fees should be charged to pay for law enforcement, but the county has only collected some  $10,000 to $20,000 from fees since that time, said Jan Takata, senior manager in the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office.


The recession slowed growth and development throughout the valley, which means little was collected from developers.
Without the money from developer fees, funding any new facilities or expanding the existing Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station in Valencia would be difficult, Takata said.

“As we look toward future expansion or placement of additional sheriff’s stations, we look toward those fees for new facilities in the (Santa Clarita) Valley,” Takata said.

County supervisors gave preliminary approval last month on a plan to purchase land in Castaic for a new, regional sheriff’s station next to the proposed new Santa Clarita Valley courthouse.


The county chief executive office’s letter that detailed the plan showed the sale of the existing sheriff’s station and courthouse would be used to fund the purchase of the property for the new sheriff’s station and courthouse.


Santa Clarita city officials immediately objected, noting the plan would place the sheriff’s station outside city limits and farther away from most existing populated areas.


County officials countered that the station would not necessarily be the only one in the Santa Clarita Valley.
But no details of other station plans were offered.

Updated report

The 2007 law enforcement facilities fee study for North Los Angeles County was conducted to help the city and the county find ways to fund law enforcement as the area grew, said Gary Tse, director of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Facilities

Planning Bureau.
The study was initiated by the county and the cities of Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster. It showed Gorman and Newhall lacking in facilities because both areas are served by the lone Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station.

The study was based on estimated growth for the next 20 years, Tse said.

Because the growth patterns have changed during the past five years due to the recession, Tse said, it’s likely the county will have to revisit the study.

“I think we need to do an update to this report so that it’s fair,” Tse said. “We now have five years of data and we now need to reassess growth.”

The report looks at projected sheriff’s station service areas, Tse said. The developer fees can be used only for facility and equipment.

The money for increased or new staffing in the Santa Clarita Valley comes from property tax, a public safety sales tax and from the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department, Takata said.

The county would not increase Sheriff’s Department staffing in the Santa Clarita Valley without a higher revenue source — either an increase in payments from the city for city areas or from property or sales tax for unincorporated areas.

Santa Clarita currently pays the county about $20 million a year for law enforcement services.

‘No plan to build’


Although the county has taken the first step toward acquiring land for a new sheriff’s station, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich has said he never intended the regional station to be the only one in the Santa Clarita Valley.


County and sheriff’s officials echoed that sentiment last week during phone interviews.


“We had an opportunity to gain a good piece of property that is located in the most accessible location,” Tse said of the proposed Castaic sheriff’s station land purchase. “It makes sense that we’re adjacent to the courthouse.”


Takata said the county has to do an assessment on the current sheriff’s station before proceeding with plans to build a new one. He added that the county also wants to speak with the city before proceeding with plans for a new station.


Santa Clarita officials have said they would welcome a discussion on the issue.


After the county’s preliminary decision last month, City Council members voted to send a letter to county and sheriff’s officials asking for cooperation on future law enforcement facilities in the SCV.


While the city has a capital improvement plan for improving city facilities, a plan currently doesn’t exist for law enforcement in the Santa Clarita Valley, said Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin.


The city and county would have to work together to make a plan for area facility improvements.


Right now, there are many options available for new sheriff’s facilities, including selling the Castaic site land to pay for a new station where the existing station is sited, Tse said.


“There’s no plan to build either a full station or satellite station,” Tse said. “We’re trying to establish a need for a good piece of land.”

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