Construction crews began work in late January on a $44 million remodeling of a Live Oak business park that will become home to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Center for Public Safety within two years.
Since the early 1970s, the sheriff’s office has occupied a floor of the Santa Cruz County Government Center on Ocean Street in Santa Cruz, with satellite offices throughout the unincorporated parts of the county.
But that arrangement began as a temporary solution, according to Sheriff Phil Wowak, who led a short tour of the Live Oak facility for the media on Feb. 5.
“This will be a great benefit for the entire community,” Wowak said before the tour. “(This location) will reduce response times for most people in the county.”
The business park is at the corner of Chanticleer and Soquel avenues in Live Oak and has three buildings that are being gutted and remodeled by Barry Swenson Builder to provide space for about 175 sheriff’s employees.
Barry Swenson, a Santa Cruz company, will employ 25 subcontractors during the two-year project.
The sheriff’s office will move its administration office into one building, including the records department, community policing, emergency operations and a fiscal office. The administration building will also have a 125-person community meeting room.
Another building will house the patrol and investigative services division, with a gym and a gated parking area where patrol vehicles will be kept.
The third building will house the forensic sciences division, including crime scene investigation and evidence, uniting a crime scene lab that is split among four locations.
He said he expects to add DNA analysis and forensic anthropology labs to the center in the future — new additions to the sheriff’s office resources.
The business park has 83,000 square feet of space, a significant upgrade from the 12,000-square-foot floor in the cramped government center.
The project is paid for by way of the now-defunct Santa Cruz County Redevelopment Agency. A series of community meetings in 2009 determined how to spend $75 million in RDA funds in Santa Cruz County. Among the uses chosen for the money were parks throughout the county and the centralized sheriff’s center.
The money was allocated before the state eliminated redevelopment agencies in 2011, said 1st District Supervisor John Leopold, who attended the Feb. 5 media tour.
The sheriff’s office hopes to have the forensics building open by the end of 2013 and the administration and patrol buildings ready in 2014.
The eventual move will not interrupt service to the San Lorenzo Valley Sheriff’s Service Center in Felton, but Wowak said the Live Oak Service Center will close.
Other service centers in Aptos and Freedom will remain open, too.
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