Friday, July 20 , 2018, 6:04 pm | Fair 73º

 
 
 
 

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Santa Barbara County, Chumash Expand Law Enforcement Contract After Casino Alcohol License Change

The Chumash Casino is now allowed to serve alcohol on the gaming floors, and in response, Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians reached an agreement to add two Sheriff’s Department deputies for enforcement and community resource policing.

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control approved an interim permit for the casino in October 2015 that allows the casino to sell alcohol on the premises between 9 a.m. and 1 a.m.

The tribe will pay for the cost of the deputies, new patrol cars and equipment, Sheriff Bill Brown told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The ongoing yearly cost will be $367,468, and one-time equipment and patrol car cost will be about $141,000.

Brown said the previous license and casino policies had limited alcohol consumption to where food was served, including restaurants.

About 6,000 people visit the casino daily, and Brown argued alcohol consumption could rise considerably with the new license.

Brown and Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr both filed protests against the license with the ABC, arguing it would aggravate law enforcement efforts and potentially have negative impacts on the greater Santa Ynez Valley community.

The interim license was issued, and Brown worked with ABC and tribal leadership to develop an expanded law enforcement contract. He told the board he believes partnering with the Chumash is the best course forward.

The contract funds a patrol deputy and community resource deputy, and the latter would work with casino employees on customer safety, as well as with other alcohol-serving institutions in the Santa Ynez Valley including the wine industry, Brown said.

Experienced deputies would transfer into those positions and be replaced with new deputies, he added.

Farr said she has concerns about alcohol consumption in the valley, which prompted her to file the protest, but would be more likely to continue protesting the issue if the interim license hadn’t already been granted.

The supervisors unanimously approved the five-year contract and tribal membership previously OK’d the deal.

Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn said the current law enforcement contract has been well received, and the new agreement is seen as enhanced coverage for the community.

The license allows the casino to serve alcohol between 9 a.m. and 1 a.m., but the tribe intends to serve it starting at 11 a.m., he said in response to a question from the board.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the supervisors also got an update on negotiations with tribal leadership about land use for Camp 4 and other Santa Ynez Valley properties.

After the most recent meeting between Chumash representatives and the board subcommittee – Farr and Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam – in March, county counsel and tribal counsel reached agreement about sovereign immunity, assistant county executive officer Terri Nisich said.

The tribe agreed to waive its right to assert sovereign immunity for the term of the agreement, which hasn’t been determined yet.

The next step is to restart the monthly public meetings, with one scheduled on Sept. 8, Nisich said.

“We’re two sets of two people attempting to talk about something and make the best deal we can, and then we all have to take it back to our respective boards and see if it passes,” Adam said.

Kahn said he is looking forward to continuing the conversations with the county.

“At the core of our issues, housing is extremely important,” he said.

Plans to put the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property into trust has been an issue at the heart of negotiations between the tribe and the county and the subject of lawsuits.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the application to place the land into trust in 2014, but the decision was appealed by the county and groups of private citizens.

Congressional legislation was developed to authorize the fee-to-trust transfer, and the Natural Resources Committee approved the bill in July with Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, as the only dissenting vote.

The tribe says it wants to transfer the land to build housing for its members. Land placed into trust in this case wouldn’t be eligible for gaming, but there would be no other federal restrictions on land use. 

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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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