LIVE OAK — After more than four decades headquartered at its “temporary” location in the County Building, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office will soon have a new home.
The SCSO, currently fractured into five buildings throughout the county, will move into a business park at Soquel Avenue and Chanticleer in Live Oak starting this year.
Work crews are currently refurbishing the three-building, 84,000-square-foot complex, which will eventually house the forensic science department, administration offices and the patrol and investigative services unit.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said the location is in a more central part of the county, near Highway 1 and Soquel Avenue, which will reduce response times.
The forensic sciences building, which Wowak expected to be completed this year, will bring under one roof services such as fingerprint analysis, serology and toxicology, property storage and the medical examiner.
Once the move is complete, Wowak said he hopes to expand operations there to include DNA analysis and forensic anthropology.
“Our department is going to be improved greatly,” he said.
The new location will also offer a central place to store and dispatch search and rescue vehicles and tactical equipment, Sheriff’s Sgt. Patrick Dimick said, adding that the central location will save as much as 40 minutes as deputies respond to critical incidents.
“In a lot of cases time is of the essence,” he said.
The administrative building will be the Sheriff’s face to the public and house a community meeting room, which Wowak said is lacking in the community.
“The bulk of all our community services will be out of our administration building,” Wowak said. “This is really laid out very well in a campus style, in a way that really meets our needs.”
The move will vacate five buildings, which likely will be good news for other county agencies, which are grappling with reduced budgets and fighting for space, Wowak said.
“We believe this will give breathing room to the other county departments,” he said.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold said the project, which will cost about $44 million, was one of a handful of projects made possible by a $75 million in redevelopment funds allocated to the county before the program was dismantled in 2011.
“This project will be a great benefit for Live Oak and Soquel, and for the whole community,” Leopold said.
The redevelopment money also went to improvements along East Cliff Drive at Twin Lakes Beach, a park on Felt Street and upgrades to Simpkins Swim Center, and will help build the Heart of Soquel Park in Soquel, Leopold said.
The county originally had $600 million in redevelopment funds, which were slated for a host of projects. That amount was drastically reduced after Gov. Jerry Brown in 2011 eliminated the program and eliminated the state’s 390 redevelopment agencies, Leopold said.
Once home to 18 businesses, the business park still has a handful which are receiving assistance from the Sheriff’s Office to find new locations.
Official say the project will be completed by the end of 2014, as the remaining tenants finish their leases and prepare to move.
The Live Oak Cafe, which has been at the location for about 7 years, will be closing within a few months, employees there said Tuesday.
The cafe is currently seeking a new location.
About half the Sheriff’s department 350 employees will move to the new location, with the rest remaining to assist with courthouse operations.
The Sheriff’s Live Oak substation at 17th Avenue and Felt Street will close, while the substations in San Lorenzo, Aptos and Freedom will remain.
“This project is extremely important to the community, but it’s also important for the advancement of public safety,” Wowak said. “It gives us professional space to work in and modernized our operations.”
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