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Local News

County to Take Over Management of Santa Barbara Veterans Building

The building has been a source of contention, and findings from a 2012 audit highlighted unstable leadership and deferred maintenance

The Santa Barbara Veterans Memorial Building will fall under county management, supervisors said Tuesday after a unanimous vote reinforced their point that the county can better manage the building than a council of local veterans.

The building has been the source of contention over the last several years, and an audit from 2012 highlighted some of those issues, including unstable leadership and deferred maintenance of the building.

The Veterans Coordinating Council has been in charge of building management, but the Board of Supervisors voted to have general services staff oversee building operations.

The county has had a contract with the VCC to manage the property since 1998, and in March, the council asked the board to extend the contract.

On Tuesday, staff recommended the county keep managing the building, and brought up the audit findings, as well as the building's condition. 

In 2013, the building was designated as a Santa Barbara city landmark. The building and the land on which it sits, an archaeological site, are candidates for the National Register of Historic Places, so a "higher degree of stewardship" for the building may be warranted, staff said.

The county also has assumed ownership of the Lompoc Veterans Building, which has an operating deficit of $150,000, and staff said they were working to pursue new revenue sources to help eliminate that deficit.

Staff said they believe that county management is the best option and has been a success in Lompoc.

Supervisor Peter Adam, whose district includes the Lompoc Veterans Building, said county management has quelled some of the angst that existed before.

"Everybody seems to be a lot happier with the way it's being run now," he said.

Supervisor Janet Wolf, whose district includes the building, said maintaining veterans services is the most important part of the contract. 

About 10 veterans spoke Tuesday, ranging from encouraging the county to assume control to those asking for more time for the council to prove themselves.

In the end, Wolf said she favored the county's move, and that the priority was increasing services available to veterans.

"I believe we have an opportunity to make it better," she said, adding that with the county taking over the management, it will allow the VCC or other organizations to focus on providing services for veterans.

Wolf said she'd like to see a Stand Down event, which took place in Santa Maria under the leadership of Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, take place in Santa Barbara.

"This is not a political decision," she said. "It is from my perspective doing what's right for the vets and what's right for the management of this building."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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