County officials concerned about added security cost at courthouse

Construction for the new San Benito County Courthouse is shown in August.

County supervisors are considering whether to appeal to the state for help in providing funds necessary to increase security personnel – as required by the state – upon the opening of the new courthouse.
County officials estimate they will have to hire at least three more security guards for the new state-funded building at Fourth and Monterey streets at a cost of $200,000 for the remainder of the year and another $400,000 in 2014, Supervisor Anthony Botelho said.
“It’s a substantial amount of money,” Botelho said.
For now, the county is requesting to augment the sheriff’s office budget to supplement the additional security cost, said Botelho in a phone interview Thursday.
He said that court security is a “priority” for the courts and the sheriff. But he said it was “not right or fair” for the county to have to manage these extra costs.
“It’s a state facility,” he said. “A legislative action has to be made at the state level.”
He said communities such as Calaveras County have recently built new courthouses but found themselves in similar situations to San Benito.
“They didn’t have the money to fund security,” he said.
He said the county may have to explore the possibility of delaying the courthouse opening until the security issue is resolved.
“The county had not budgeted for this,” he said.
Gil Solorio, the court executive officer, said there was a “security concern” over staffing the new courthouse.
He said the state didn’t consider the county’s particular needs in its funding formula. The $33 million facility is 41,500 square feet versus 11,000 for the old courthouse – a much larger facility that will need more personnel to run it, he said.
“The state’s formula isn’t flexible to consider this transition,” he said. “The funding remains static.”
He said the court is currently looking for a short-term solution as well as a long-term solution. He said the long-term solution would be lobbying members of the State Assembly to change the formula in the law to help offset new costs for smaller counties such as San Benito.
“The court is looking to provide funds to augment dollars already received from the state,” he said.

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