Wednesday, May 23 , 2018, 3:52 pm | Overcast 66º


Local News

Supervisors to Vote on Human-Trafficking and Ecological-Restoration Grant Opportunities

Santa Barbara County is looking to take advantage of grant opportunities to help it battle human trafficking and continue the Refugio oil spill recovery.

At its Tuesday meeting in Santa Barbara, the county Board of Supervisors is expected to vote to accept federal grants that would bolster the county’s Human Trafficking Task Force, and to chase grants related to ecological restoration.

The board also will vote on a new memorandum of understanding with the Service Employees International Union, Local 620, which represents many county employees.

In September, the county found out that it would receive federal funding for its Human Trafficking Task Force, which was established in 2013 but has lacked the resources necessary to sufficiently address the crime and provide services for victims, according to county staff.

Both the Sheriff’s and the District Attorney’s offices applied in May for the Department of Justice's Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking grant.

On Tuesday, the supervisors likely will give the thumbs up for the offices to accept the 3-year grants, which total $1.34 million.

According to the District Attorney’s Office, the county is especially vulnerable to human trafficking as a tourist destination with plenty of migrant labor and a transitory population.

The Sheriff’s Department has been offered more than $740,000, which would go toward a full-time detective to investigate trafficking crimes.

More than $604,000 for the DA’s office would provide for a victim-witness program assistant that would allow for round-the-clock services for both adult and child victims of trafficking.

The task force also anticipates being better able to collect, share and analyze human-trafficking data with the new resources.

The task force was created to bring together county stakeholders, to study the issue of human trafficking on a local level, to raise awareness and to develop plans for combating it.

Last year, research initiated by the task force revealed that there are 45 children who are survivors of domestic sex trafficking in the county, with 80 more suspected cases and 461 children considered “highly vulnerable” to the crime.

The supervisors will also vote on whether to authorize the county Flood Control District to apply for restoration grants as local coastal areas continue to recover from 2015’s Refugio oil spill.

A process called the National Resource Damage Assessment, a collaboration between agencies at all levels of government, looks into restoration projects for places affected by disasters like oil spills.

During its assessments, the NRDA examines the ecological damage and “human-use losses” caused by an oil spill.

The Flood Control District is looking to partner with the Beach Erosion Authority for Clean Oceans and Nourishment (BEACON), a state agency, to apply for funding for a “debris basin removal or modification project” that it believes the NRDA will look favorably upon.

Debris basins capture sediment and other geologic or vegetative debris flowing along a stream or being washed out in a storm. They’re often used to keep that material out of downstream water or to protect people and structures from events like landslides.

According to the county, a debris-basin project would have the benefits of “fish passage, improved sediment transport to the beach, and reduced Flood Control District operations costs.”

The board is also voting on a new contract with SEIU, Local 620, the majority bargaining representative of close to 2,000 county employees.

The county and SEIU’s previous memorandum of understanding expired in July, and the two parties have been negotiating a new one since April.

According to the county, the board vote comes in anticipation of the union’s members ratifying the new memorandum as well.

Major changes between the last memorandum and the pending one include a 2-percent salary increase effective Nov. 7, and 2.5-percent salary increases starting July 3, 2017, and July 2, 2018.

The proposed new memorandum and its changes can be found here.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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