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Our View: Station switch shouldn’t be only move

Posted: February 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2012 1:55 a.m.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently authorized its chief executive officer to move ahead on a plan to build a new regional sheriff’s station in Castaic adjacent to the proposed new courthouse under consideration by the state.

While the move prompted cries of indignation from some, little constructive discussion and fewer details have been offered for a Sheriff’s Department regional facility in the Castaic Junction area.

But to nearly everyone’s surprise, the county’s intention also includes a plan to close the existing Sheriff’s Station in Santa Clarita.

At a time when this newspaper and many community leaders and law enforcement officials believe the county should be considering an additional sheriff’s substation in Canyon Country, the county’s proposal would apparently include no sheriff’s stations anywhere in the city and would remove policing headquarters even farther from the Canyon Country service area.

And while The Signal sought an explanation from the county for several days following the Feb. 14 Board of Supervisors decision, it received only vague statements about some other station or stations to be located at some unknown time and place somewhere inside the city limits.

True, the supervisors’ Valentine’s Day decision was a preliminary one. And typically, the Editorial Board likes to wait for as much information as possible or practical before taking a position on an issue.

But the measure approved by the Board of Supervisors specifically stipulates: “The cost for the new sheriff’s station is anticipated to be fully offset by proceeds from the sale of the existing Santa Clarita Courthouse, administrative center and the Sheriff’s Station which, based on current appraisals, are estimated at $14.7 million, and approximately $23.2 million in future developer fees on planned developments in the Santa Clarita Valley.”

This portion of the county’s initial plan seems pretty clear to us.

So, in this case, we are going to weigh in before this unacceptable plan gets too far into the process.

Let us be clear. We are opposed to any county facility construction plan that does not include significant upgrades to the existing Sheriff’s Department presence in or near the center of the city of Santa Clarita, the Sheriff’s Department’s largest customer in the region.

Additionally, we think that expanding the department’s presence in Canyon Country is worthy of serious consideration.

Our own Sheriff’s Department captain and Santa Clarita city officials have gone on the record as opposed to removing law enforcement facilities from within the city. If the city and the captain — who is the de facto chief of police for Santa Clarita — were not consulted on this aspect of the county’s plan, then where did this idea come from?

Local representatives of Supervisor Michael Antonovich have proposed opportunities for stakeholder discussions. The Signal Editorial Board supports this.

We would also support a law enforcement needs assessment done in coordination with the county Sheriff’s Department and the city.

Perhaps the city could be persuaded to offer some of its strategically located properties for an improved Sheriff’s Station, and the $14.7 million from the sale of the current Valencia complex could be used to offset the cost of constructing a more practical, central sheriff’s station.

Most of all, we want to see the major stakeholders in developing a new law enforcement facility work together toward this worthy goal and have the discussions that should have occurred in the first place.

The Signal always supports effective and quality law enforcement for the valley.

But the plan given preliminary OK on Feb. 14 comes up short.


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