County conducts ‘Space needs’ survey to plan for future
Hollister – At the half-century-old Sheriff’s Department, the plumbing is poor, the heating and air-conditioning is suspect and the roof constantly leaks.

Worst of all, the cramped quarters and a growing staff make for unsuitable and often uncomfortable working conditions, according to Sheriff Curtis Hill.

So when county leaders told each department to fill out a “space needs” survey to help determine what buildings get future priority for construction work, Hill jumped at the opportunity.

Officials have recognized that many of the county’s buildings are not only aging and need replacement, but they’re also becoming increasingly squeezed for space. Although it’s unlikely – with San Benito’s current budget problems – for any major construction in the near future, leaders hope to have a grasp on construction needs when money becomes available.

Hill believes his antiquated Sheriff’s Department should be at the top of the priority list. He hopes, optimistically, that construction on a new building could start within two years.

“We’re in the dark ages here,” Hill said of the building that formerly served as a dual Sheriff’s Department and county jail. “My number one priority over the next few years, beyond the day-to-day public safety needs, is to get my staff a new building.”

Aside from the Sheriff’s Department, Hill’s also conducting the same survey for the current county jail – which he oversees and was built 12 years ago – as well as other criminal justice buildings. Those include the county courthouse and the building that houses the District Attorney’s Office and the Probation Department, he said.

Other county structures with an obvious need for replacement or renovation include the courthouse, the library and the planning and public works buildings on Southside Road, according to officials. Once the county receives the surveys from all departments, leaders will compile a five-year plan for space needs, according to assistant administrator Robbin Scattini.

Head Librarian Jo Wahdan has pursued a new building for the San Benito County Free Library for more than a decade. She also filled out the space needs survey and, in doing so, continued a persistent theme.

“The library is definitely very inadequate for the community,” she said.

Among the library’s problems, she said, are the lack shelving and parking space. And the building that’s more than 40 years old can’t accommodate much of the improving technology that’s been infusing other libraries throughout the country.

Hill said he has a similar problem. Computer systems for law enforcement agencies, including his, continually improve. But the physical surroundings of the building don’t nearly match the technological advancements his office has made.

“It’s kind of like putting a fuel injection system on an Egyptian chariot,” Hill said.

Though Hill’s Sheriff’s Department does have one thing going for it that other departments don’t. It’s close to other county offices, such as the neighboring County Administration Building – the central location for county business.

In doing the space needs study, officials have indicated the ideal outcome would include relocating all of the offices to one central location – instead of the current setup with many departments spread out across the county’s northern region.

Previously suggested locations for such a focal point have included the now vacant Convalescent Hospital and the old Fremont School, which the city of Hollister owns.

For many residents who interact with the planning and public works offices – often for development or renovation projects – a central location would lessen the number of trips to those departments located along the winding Southside Road, according to acting public works head Arman Nazemi.

“There is a lot of back and forth from the applicants’ standpoint,” Nazemi said of residents trying to build in the county.

It also would ease the hassle for county workers who collaborate with other officials downtown, he said.

Hill believes the current Board of Supervisors, which has three members leaving office come December, has shown it would be willing to build if money was available.

“They’re very serious,” Hill said. “The board has been very, very receptive about having a space study done.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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