Santa Barbara County Park Department
May 18, 1995
Honorable Judge Melville;
The following is submitted in response to the 1994-95 Grand Jury Interim Final Report, Housing And Structures In County Parks.
I. FACTUAL CORRECTIONS TO REPORT INTRODUCTION/OBSERVATIONS
The record should reflect the following two factual corrections to statements in the Grand Jury's report which are outside of the findings and recommendation section:
1. The introduction to the report should reflect that the Park
Department maintains 23 parks and 61 open spaces rather than 83 parks and 53 open spaces.
2. The observation section of the report states that "Park employees living on site are required to work, in addition to their regular duties, an additional 10 hours per week to compensate the County for their housing allowances. The resident ranger rental agreements were modified in 1987 in response to legal requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibiting agreements from being established which waive compensation for an employee's labor. This change in legislation resulted in the elimination of the "10 hour work" requirement in lieu of rent and was replaced by a provision that the employee be available for certain duties when present in the park during off-duty hours. Further, such tasks shall be compensable and included in the calculation of the employees work week. The duties include:
a. Report and assist with accidents and emergencies.
b. Report incidents to law enforcement agencies.
c. Provide help to persons in distress.
d. Provide public information and directions and attend telephones in situations demanding immediate attention and under conditions of urgency.
The current resident ranger agreements provide prompt response to the public at all times the employee is present, and permits a reduction in cost to the County through avoidance of call-back of employees living away from the park. In addition, the agreements permit the resident employee flexibility in adjusting the 40-hour work schedule regularly assigned to meet the needs stated above.
II. DEPARTMENTAL RESPONSE TO FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
FINDING #1: "The Santa Barbara County Park Department needs a written policy regarding the need for live-in park employees and written qualifications for personnel to live in County park housing".
RECOMMENDATION #1a: "The Park Department should develop a written housing policy for park residency which justifies the need for housing in specific County Parks".
RECOMMENDATION #1b: "The Park Department should develop a written criteria for personnel assigned to these parks".
RESPONSE #1a: The resident ranger program in Santa Barbara County Parks was developed over time to deter vandalism, increase public safety, improve public relations and to facilitate upkeep. These key issues are relevant and important to park facilities whether located in the heart of a neighborhood or set out in a remote area. There have been opportunities to evaluate the need for park employees residing at park locations verses volunteer park hosts and adjustments in the program have been made. The Park Department will continue to evaluate and modify the resident ranger program with input from community residents affected by potential changes and as opportunities through attrition in staff arise.
RESPONSE #1b: Written qualifications for employees participating in the resident ranger program are provided for in the Santa Barbara County Park Department Policy Manual. Section 9 of the Departmental Policy Manual indicates that a vacancy in a park with a resident requirement, will be filled through the voluntary transfer of an existing qualified park employee based on his/her current experience and training and his/her continuing development being most enhanced by the new assignment. The duties and responsibilities of the resident ranger are defined within the Departmental Policy Manual. Park personnel are assigned to these positions consistent with their demonstrated ability to meet these requirements.
FINDING #2: "Too much housing is provided in some County parks for park employees as a condition of employment".
RECOMMENDATION #2: "The following recommendations are made for County parks where housing is required as a condition of employment":
Jalama Beach Park - Maintain four residences as a condition of employment because of its remote location.
Nojogui Park - Leave the house and remove the mobile home. A resident ranger is needed because of the remote location. Los Alamos Park - Retain the residence because of remote location.
Waller Park - Eliminate the two residences or make them available for other County use.
Goleta Beach Park - Retain house and remove the mobile home. one employee should remain as a condition of employment for emergency response to Goleta Beach Park, Isla Vista Park, Stow Grove Park, Lake Los Carneros Park, and Tucker's Grove Park.
Arroyo Burro Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.
Stow Grove Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.
Pucker's Grove Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.
Manning Park - Refurbish the Scout House and convert the residences for other County use.
Lookout Park - Eliminate the residence or make it available for other County use.
Toro Canyon Park - Continue the residence as a condition of employment. This employee could provide service at Toro Canyon Park as well as Lookout Park, Manning Park, Loon Point and Wallace Avenue Parks".
RESPONSE #2: As noted in the department response to recommendation #la, parks requiring residency programs as a condition of employment have been developed in response to public safety and facility protection issues. The Park Department will continue to review and modify the program with input from community members and as opportunities arise through staff attrition.
FINDING #3: "It is impossible to identify' the actual expenditures for the j@ maintenance and upkeep of housing locate @n the parks because there is no separate budget category".
RECOMMENDATION-TON #3: "The Park Department must develop a budget category for income and expenditures associated with park housing".
RESPONSE #3: The Santa Barbara County Park Department performs annual systematic inspections of resident ranger housing in parks for the purpose of documenting needed repairs or improvements. Based on the essential need of repairs identified in the inspection reports and budget availability, work is performed to correct deficiencies. To aid in consolidated tracking Grand Jury Response of these expenditures, a cost center will be established in the parks budget. Currently, no income is generated from the housing in parks. Should housing be converted to income generating property in the future, a system of accounting will be established.
FINDING #4: "The Park Host Program works well at minimum cost to the County".
RECOMMENDATION #4: "The Park Host Program concept should be expanded to assist maintaining the County parks.
RESPONSE #4: The Santa Barbara County Park Department concurs with this finding and will continue to expand the host program where appropriate.
FINDING #5: "The housing provided at Lake Cachuma is not a condition of employment and is unnecessary".
RECOMMENDATION #5: "Eliminate housing at Lake Cachuma for non-essential County employees and convert the spaces for recreational / camping use".
RESPONSE #5: There are seven employees residing at Lake Cachuma on a voluntary basis, not as a condition of employment. It should be noted that the mobile homes were not supplied by the County but rather purchased and located at the Lake by the employees residing in them. As reported by the Grand Jury, these employees pay rent, possessory interest tax and utilities. The Park Department concurs that the number of employees in housing at the Lake should be limited but not eliminated all together. Three of the seven employees provide an essential service to the 24 hour camping facility by living on the premises. The three positions are: 1) the licensed chief operator for the on-site water and sewer plant; 2) park ranger at the main campground facility and; 3) park ranger at Live Oak Camp (Live Oak Camp is a separate and isolated camp facility 3 miles east of the main campground). As is the case at Jalama Beach Campground, the remote nature 6f Lake Cachuma Campground and the 24 hour operation of the facility required presence by park personnel for public safety and facility protection purposes.
Because it has been the past policy of the Park Department to allow employees working at Lake Cachuma to reside at the Lake on a voluntary basis and,, based on this policy employees have acquired mobile homes to facilitate this practice, a reasonable time period should be granted to them to make other living arrangements. The Park Department will develop a planned approach to reducing the number of employees residing at Lake Cachuma to those essential positions noted.
FINDING #6: "The Scout House, located in Manning Park, has deteriorated into a deplorable condition. it is unacceptable for the County to be the beneficiary of a generous civic donation and to subsequently not honor the commitment to properly maintain this valuable gift".
RECOMMENDATION #6: "The Park Department should refurbish the Scout House".
RESPONSE #6: The Park Department recognizes and concurs that the "Scout House" in Manning Park is in great need of renovation. The task of renovating the building includes repair and seismic retrofit of the existing structure at a cost beyond the current financial resources of 'the Park Department.
During the past 30 years the Park Department has invested over $360,000 in improvements to Manning Park for the use and enjoyment of the community at large. 'These improvements include construction of group picnic areas, play equipment, pathways throughout the park, restrooms, parking areas, installation of irrigation systems and tennis courts.
The Montecito area girl and boy scout organizations have had exclusive use of the "Scout House,, within Manning Park in excess of thirty (30) years. As with many treasured historical sites owned by the County, private nonprofit organizations have been instrumental in raising funds to preserve these resources. Given the constrained financial resources of the Park Department, a partnership between the County and community organizations to raise private funds is key to restoring the "Scout House" in Manning Park.
The Park Department intends to actively pursue joint efforts to address the renovation and restoration needs of this site.
c: Robert Glick, Grand Jury Foreman Kent Taylor, County Administrator Linda Thom, Administrative Analyst