Sunday, July 17, 2016

[Santa Barbara County] Repairs, not replacement suggested for aging coroner’s office

The replacement of Santa Barbara County’s aging inmate-built Coroner’s Office will not likely occur, despite a grand jury report released in May calling the facility inadequate in many respects.
Instead, county staff has recommended that the Board of Supervisors move forward with $145,000 worth of repairs, which are expected to last up to 20 years.
Approximately 120 autopsies are performed each year at the facility on victims of homicides, infants and adults under 55, according to the grand jury.
“The ventilation in the autopsy room continues to be deficient,” the grand jury noted in its May report. “The jury learned that the stench can be so bad that employees have had to stand in the parking lot in order to continue working.”
The jury notes that while it is their understanding that the supervisors have authorized funding to replace the ventilation system, it isn’t clear if there are enough funds to properly retrofit the building.
“Additionally, there is no transition room for staff to remove protective clothing and clean up,” the grand jury stated. “At this time, the staff does this outside the building in the open.”
But funding just isn’t there to fully replace the building, as requested by the grand jury.
In a proposed letter from the supervisors to the grand jury, county staff say, the needed repairs to the facility are not significant enough to require replacement of the facility.
The $145,000 figure comes from the lowest responsive bidder, which estimates a 90 day timeline for repair work, with completion estimated before the end of October 2016.
The repair work will include replacement of the heating, cooling and ventilation system for the building, according to the proposed letter. The project also includes replacing the failing exhaust system and re-ducting the ventilation system so general offices and exam rooms do not share air.
In its report, the grand jury also made recommendations directed to the Sheriff’s Office regarding their view that the drug drop box at the Santa Maria Sheriff substation isn’t properly maintained and the Lompoc Court holding facility doesn’t have recording capability on its video surveillance system.
The grand jury then requested that staff regularly monitor and maintain drug drop off boxes and that the holding facility in Lompoc install video recording equipment.
In response to the concerns, the Sheriff’s Office said it would maintain the drop off boxes, but that it didn’t agree with the recommendations regarding the recording equipment, because the court complexes are owned by the state and must be approved by them first.
“While this request singles out the Lompoc Court holding facility, it ought to be noted that none of the court holding facilities within the county have video surveillance systems,” according to a letter signed by Undersheriff Bernard Melekian. “The Sheriff’s Office had recently requested video equipment be installed at the Santa Maria Court holding facility after a custody deputy had been assaulted. The state declined the installation request.”
The grand jury also had concerns for the Lompoc City Council, which noted that the refrigerated storage for evidence was inadequate and that the city’s police building was inadequate for its operational needs. The responses to those two concerns have not yet been made available.
The supervisors will decide what direction to proceed during their meeting on Tuesday, which starts at 9 a.m. in Santa Maria.
To view the report, visit
July 7, 2016
Lompoc Record
By Kenny Lindberg

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