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April 2, 2020

Improve roads and jails, says civil grand jury

The San Benito County Civil Grand Jury has released its 2018-2019 report, which investigated the quality of county roads, the county jail and the juvenile hall.

The recommendations for the jail and juvenile hall were relatively minor, while the investigation into roads found the quality to be increasingly poor, with a lack of adequate funding for necessary improvements. 

For each of the three investigations that the report addressed, the Board of Supervisors has 90 days to respond. The county sheriff has 90 days to respond to the report that addressed the county jail.

To make improvements to county roads apart from necessary maintenance, the grand jury recommended the county hire a professional grant writer to seek funding opportunities. 

“We learned that even the continuation of SB-1 funding plus future Measure G funding will provide only enough to maintain current road quality, not enough to fund significant road improvement projects desperately needed,” read the report. “We recommend that San Benito County hire a professional grant writer to seek fund for road projects as well as for the salary requirements of said grant writer.”

The grand jury also took aim at the county planning commissioners’ negotiation skills when approving new development in the county. 

“To mitigate the impact of new home subdivisions on San Benito County roads, we recommend that the San Benito County planning commissioners attend training on the effective negotiation of any new development agreement with persons or entities building new homes in San Benito County. It is our understanding that such training is available,” said the report.

The pavement index report for 2016 was used as a reference point for the grand jurors. Each Supervisor district had what pavement qualities that were considered poor.

[Subhead] The Jail

The county jail houses men and women over the age of 18. The grand jury questioned staff and inmates and conducted an inspection of the facility. 

Overall, the grand jury felt the jail was “clean and well run,” but wanted to see central air installed, plumbing updated in the kitchen area, and more mental health services.

During summer months, the grand jury said, the facility gets too hot, and the use of portable air conditioners was not sufficient. Sewer problems in the jail’s kitchen meant that food preparation had to be outsourced. 

The grand jury also found that inmates were sometimes required to wait for mental or physical care because of a high demand. The supervisors were asked to pursue grant or funding options to install central air and fund the kitchen repairs. The grand jury also asked for an increase in mental health services. 

[subhead] Juvenile Hall

The county juvenile hall houses boy and girls ages 12-18; each year the grand jury investigates the facility and its practices.

During its investigation, the grand jury questioned staff and conducted an inspection. They found that “the juvenile hall staff expressed commitment to help each youth reach their full potential with a positive attitude, and overall care for each youth.”

The grand jury found the facilities to be sufficient, but recommended the county add a vocational learning programs and more access to mental health services.

“There are no vocational programs for the youths to help them be able to study and learn a new trade after their time spent in juvenile hall,” said the report. “More mental health time is needed to help the youths cope with the daily life of juvenile hall.”

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