County grand jury spots funding problems

HOLLISTER PARKS, COUNTY JAIL, JUVENILE HALL ALL NEED MORE MONEY

San Benito County Sheriff’s Capt. Don Bradley, the county’s special projects captain overseeing the jail expansion, stands in front of the facility construction site on Flynn Road April 12, with the current 26-year-old jail in the background.

Hollister city parks and the County Jail and Juvenile Hall all suffer from a lack of adequate funding, a county grand jury has concluded.

The San Benito County Civil Grand Jury, after conducting its own investigations, released its 2017-18 report on June 13.

“A major problem facing [Hollister] Parks and Recreation Departments is funding,” the grand jury report observed, adding that the agency “must find other potential funding mechanisms to supplement the 4 percent they receive from the general budget.”

The civil grand jury, which comprises 19 local residents selected to meet over 12 months to investigate matters in local government, is completely separate from a criminal grand jury that considers criminal cases. It reports to the county Superior Court annually.

Hollister should follow recommendations for potential funding in its own parks master plan, the jury said, including seeking grants for recreation programs.

The report determined that the 17 city parks are well maintained, and well utilized by the public, with adequate equipment, but lack adequate trees and shrubs. The city can do a better job of communicating to the public about its activities, board meetings and volunteer opportunities, the report said.

In addition, the grand jury found that recreation classes should be more inclusive by providing classes to developmentally and/or physically disabled residents.

“There seem to be no classes for youth or adults with developmental and/or physical disabilities,” it said.

The grand jury examined four years of parks and recreation records.

County Jail/Juvenile Hall

The grand jury customarily reviews the County Jail and Juvenile Hall in its annual reports.

This year, the grand jury concluded that the staff members were responsive to requests, the buildings were clean and well maintained, and the health care area was in good condition.

Both the jail and the separate Juvenile Hall were under capacity when inspected.

“Female inmates [at the jail] are only allowed exercise every other day, while males receive it every day in the yard,” the report said. Further, the jail’s new building expansion, to be completed in 2019, has no goal to add an exercise yard, the report stated.

The jury said the county should consider adding a female-only exercise yard to increase recreation opportunities for the women.

The report said “there is a staff shortage,” and observed that shifts are often covered by overtime work. The jurors supported requests for hiring more jail deputies.

The report also said the “county does not have enough medical staff to cover a full 24-hour day,” nor does it have staff to support mental health needs of inmates.

“Programming like counseling, education and rehabilitation needs to be improved,” the jury recommended.

Many of the jail’s appliances in the kitchen do not work. The grand jury recommended opening the food staging area to a full-functioning kitchen by replacing non-operational appliances, which would allow inmates to further develop skills.

As for Juvenile Hall, the report concluded:

The carpet needs replacement throughout the facility, and there are missing or water-damaged ceiling tiles in the recreation area.

Internal locks are worn and did not open easily, and a basketball hoop was damaged.

There were a number of trip hazards, including potholes in the grass from gopher infestation that were so bad that detainees were not allowed to run in the grass.

The grand jury recommended that the county board approve requests for funding by the Juvenile Hall to complete repairs and improvements to the facility.

San Juan Bautista-area schools

The grand jury also took a look at San Juan Bautista schools, which it generally gave high marks for facilities and fiscal controls.

The grand jury reported the following findings:

The San Juan School cafeteria, which provides all meals for San Juan School and Anzar High School, was well organized and extremely clean, with the kitchen area clean and orderly.

The San Juan School grounds, maintained by two full-time custodians and a district landscaping crew, were extremely well maintained.

The San Juan School playground was well maintained with no safety concerns visible.

The San Juan School library and bathrooms were well maintained and clean.

“The library, which is well organized, emphasizes reading by utilizing competitive learning programs,” the jury reported. “The library has an email system which allows students to communicate via email with students from sister schools in foreign countries.”

The jurors found Anzar grounds also were extremely well maintained, and bathrooms and locker rooms clean as well.

The grand jury concurred with the district that an additional full-time landscaping employee would be helpful to accommodate weather events such as downed trees.

The site inspection overall revealed that both schools are better maintained now than in the past.

The foreperson of this year’s grand jury was John Campos, and he noted in an introductory letter that the group struggled initially with the complexity of these investigations.

“In the beginning, we were surprised by the enormity of challenges and complexities required to conduct investigations,” he wrote.

Government bodies put under the watchdog group’s microscope have 90 days to respond by law after the jury submits its final report, while top administrators have 60 days to respond.

 

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