Riverside sheriff gains more control over updating, maintaining facilities

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RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted today to give Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco and his staff more control over the management of maintenance at sheriff’s buildings, as well as the ability to independently handle future repairs and upgrades at sheriff’s facilities.

Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Chuck Washington first brought the matter before the board on Jan. 7, saying in their original proposal that by “empowering the sheriff’s department with the ability to oversee and manage services, they may realize significant savings that will allow them to help meet their budget goals.”

But the action was postponed at the request of Supervisors Jeff Hewitt and Karen Spiegel, with the latter complaining that there was insufficient data available to make a decision. The revised agenda item contains specific figures and projects intended to give the board a more detailed view of what it is Bianco and his administrators intend to do.

In order to cut down on so-called internal service fund — ISF — fee costs, the sheriff will have the flexibility to oversee some types of public works contracts and absorb employees from the Economic Development Agency, an ISF agency.

The sheriff’s department maintained that custodial, landscaping and other maintenance employees on the payroll of the law enforcement agency, rather than rented from EDA, will shave expenses.

The Riverside University Health System already utilizes in-house staff for the same purposes, according to Executive Office documents.

For infrastructure projects, the sheriff and EDA will be required to confer and decide which one is best suited to negotiating and managing work projects with vendors.

Jeffries’ and Washington’s approved proposal seeks to displace EDA as the ultimate authority on architectural and engineering services, putting the sheriff’s staff in the driver’s seat on which consultants and companies to hire for planning and preparation. The supervisors noted that EDA’s ISF fees for overseeing public works projects can run anywhere from 2% to 20% of the overall outlays for a project’s budget.

Documents indicated 17 projects are in the planning stage, including repairs to the roof of the Hemet sheriff’s station, overhauling the inmate showers at the Blythe Jail and replacing the primary HVAC unit at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

The sheriff’s budget consumes the largest share of public safety allocations and is among the leading cost-drivers for the county every fiscal year. According to Jeffries and Washington, internal service funds have a major impact on the sheriff’s expenditures.

“Costs in EDA-controlled areas have increased over 50% since fiscal year 2014/15 and have outpaced the board’s approved budget allocation, fiscal year after fiscal year,” according to the supervisors. “These cost increases are unsustainable and not only impact the sheriff’s operating budget, but are passed on to (the department’s) contract city partners as facility rate increases.”

The sheriff’s facilities maintenance expenditures in 2017-18 were $9.13 million, compared to $10.7 million in the fiscal year ending last June 30 — a 17% increase.

“This is the first of many challenging decisions we face as a board going forward,” Jeffries told his colleagues earlier this month. “There is extreme pressure on departments to live within very restricted budgets. ISFs have been kind of left unrestricted, and the costs continue to escalate. We cannot continue that practice. This is a new board, a new day and new opportunities.”

They’re also proposing to permit the sheriff to independently — without EDA’s input — enter into agreements for furniture and fixtures acquisitions.

Clearing the way for the sheriff to gain control of the maintenance, planning and other services contracts would require revisions to board policies B-11 and H-7.