Ongoing understaffing and leadership consistency issues within local agencies are among the findings from the San Benito County Civil Grand Jury 2022-23 report released July 18. The agencies investigated include the San Benito County Jail, Hollister Fire Department and the animal shelter. The Civil Grand Jury also investigated Hollister’s traffic calming measures and County Service Area services.
The Civil Grand Jury is convened annually and is made up of 19 citizens who are sworn in to serve as grand jurors and investigate the operations of various government departments and agencies.
“The Grand Jury is an official body of the Court with independent authority that is not answerable to administrators or legislators,” the county’s website states. “Its principal purpose is to protect the public interest.”
According to the 46-page report, the Civil Grand Jury investigations found issues regarding the Hollister Fire Department in leadership, mentoring and support following a promotion, staffing levels, and the need for additional fire stations based on the county’s population.
This year’s Civil Grand Jury followed up on last year’s investigation of the animal shelter and found it still struggles with staffing, training and attracting a volunteer base.
Regarding Hollister’s traffic calming devices installed in recent years, the Civil Grand Jury found there is no formal process for eliciting fire department input and that the city does not maintain a record of such input when identifying traffic calming measures for local roads. The report also questions if the fire department was adequately involved in deciding if traffic calming measures are warranted.
Regarding the already installed traffic calming devices, the report states some roads prohibit drivers from complying with the law requiring them to yield to emergency response vehicles, limits roadside parking near a school and the report questions whether the devices are legal per the California fire code.
The Civil Grand Jury found that the county jail, which is required by law to investigated annually, continues to have “several of the same unresolved issues” reported by previous Civil Grand Juries including staffing levels, air conditioning, poor roof condition and the plumbing system.
Lastly, the report addresses County Service Areas (CSAs), which are subdivisions within the unincorporated area that pay fees through property tax for services from the county such as landscaping, road maintenance, police and fire services, water and wastewater services, and street lighting and sweeping.
According to the report, the Civil Grand Jury found challenges with the county retaining employees in leadership positions that oversee the CSAs. The report also notes problems with the county addressing complaints from CSA residents in a timely manner leading to those residents feeling like they don’t have a voice.
BenitoLink will follow up on the Civil Grand Jury report with a more detailed article on each of the agencies that were investigated along with comments from those agencies.
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