Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Local entities respond to Sutter County grand jury report

Following the findings and recommendations of the 2015-16 Sutter County Grand Jury, four local entities' additional responses were filed with the county clerk on Sept. 22.
While the jury had multiple findings and recommendations for each, the following are highlights from their report and each entity's response.
Community Services District
In the grand jury's investigation of the Sutter County Community Services District, the jury found that some of the district's customers with only one water meter hookup on their property were being double billed for more than 10 years.
The water district partially disagreed with the grand jury's findings, saying it had only charged double base rates to properties that had more than one premises or family residential unit living on the parcel of land. It said an ordinance established in 1991 required properties to have one meter for each separate premises.
The 10 properties charged double base rates were granted permission from the district to have one meter for multiple premises with the stipulation they would be charged double base rates "to recover the loss in revenue."
The grand jury recommended the water district hire an outside auditor to review what it described as erroneous double charges to the residents. The district denied the grand jury's recommendation.
The grand jury also recommended the water district itemize lines on bills to show what customers are being charged for — like base rate No. 1 and base rate No. 2. The water district agreed with the grand jury and said the recommendation has been implemented.
Sutter County Sheriff's Office
The grand jury toured the county's criminal justice facilities and found that much of what needs repairs and upgrades requires funding but that the county doesn't have the funding in its budget. So the grand jury recommended the sheriff research available grants to address the maintenance.
Two main areas of need for the Sutter County Sheriff's Office are with the jail's cooling system and to address critical needs at its Live Oak division, which included installing video and audio equipment in interview rooms, providing officers with less than lethal weapons, as well as proper safety equipment.
The sheriff's office agreed with the grand jury's recommendation and said the county and the sheriff's office are seeking funding.
There have only been four funding authorizations for jail-related construction over the last nine years in the state, according to the sheriff's office. One of the grants was awarded to the sheriff's office for about $10 million in funding for jail upgrades including increased bed space and renovated medical facilities.
The other three grants were not awarded to the sheriff's office.
When the jail was originally opened in 1977, there was a total capacity of about 78 beds. With multiple upgrades since then, its current bed capacity is 352, and with the $10 million renovation the capacity will be increased to 394 beds.
The HVAC system upgrade is not included in the upgrades, but the sheriff said it is a top priority moving forward. Having a faulty cooling system poses a problem for inmates taking psychotropic medications because they can become heat intolerant when temperatures exceed 85 degrees.
According to the sheriff's office response, "The Sheriff and the County will continue to seek funding opportunities to improve the physical capabilities of the jail."
The sheriff's office confirmed the Live Oak Sub Station will be equipped with all of the items recommended in the grand jury's report within the upcoming fiscal year.
Yuba City Unified School District
While the majority of the grand jury's findings of its tour of Yuba City Unified School District were positive, the jury recommended the district address Park Avenue Elementary School's deteriorated dirt track. It proposed the district look into grant funds or donations to upgrade the facility.
The district said a Facilities Master Plan outlines areas of need throughout its schools. The district will refer the grand jury's recommendation to the Facilities Committee "for study and resource analysis with the intention to identify a solution to improve the dirt track at Park Avenue School."
Sutter County Superintendent of Schools
The grand jury recommended the county Superintendent of Schools Office should consider creating a new position that writes grant applications to "maximize all necessary tools for achieving modern standards for education."
The jury recommended the position be funded by commission on the grants received.
In its response, the Superintendent of Schools disagreed with the jury's report and said the district currently has adequate services for all of its schools.
"The Sutter County Superintendent of Schools provides grant writing support with current staff of departments, imbedded in the duties of their position, not by one person specifically as their sole assignment."
October 2, 2016
By Jake Abbott

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