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Santa Maria to Hire Police, Firefighters Under Measure U

Nine new police officers will be added to Santa Maria’s public-safety ranks as part of the first round of items funded by Measure U.

Members of the Santa Maria City Council got their first crack at appropriating the measure funds — paid via a quarter-percent sales tax increase voters approved in June — at a meeting Tuesday night.

The first phase — an estimated $2.1 million for 2013 — includes spending $1.4 million to finance operation costs of Fire Station 5, one additional battalion chief and one limited-service employee. The seven officers, two sergeants, one crime analyst and one dispatcher will be funded by $441,644 in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Recruitment processes will push actual hiring into February or March, with an annual estimated cost of $1.1 million for those 11 positions.

In addition to those hires, the council was tasked with deciding how to spend the remaining $206,000 that could be appropriated this fiscal year.

Mike Cordero said he was the lone council member who wanted to store the extra funds for future police and fire use.

The council ultimately voted to hire three additional police sergeants, a code-compliance officer and a senior park-services officer, for a combined 2012-13 partial-year cost of $143,600.

Library hours will be extended and a graffiti-abatement program also will be implemented using the funds, for a total cost for the remainder of 2012-13 of $118,100.

Cordero said the library would begin opening at 10 a.m. four days a week instead of noon so schools and community members will have more time to use the space.

“It is in line with what Measure U suggested,” Cordero said. “The lion’s share of the money addresses police and fire issues. I think that the community made out really well (Tuesday) night.”

The council appropriated funds for the last half of this fiscal year only, Cordero said, noting that the new council will take a look at 2013-14 options closer to June.

Potential options that did not make the funding cut included an annual debt-service obligation of $659,000, a satellite youth center, a human resources clerk and the PAL Program.

Residents will begin to see the changes voted on Tuesday night sometime early next year, Cordero said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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