SLO County could consider Nipomo sheriff's substation in budget

The dormant possibility of Nipomo receiving a sheriff’s substation came alive again during a San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors discussion about capital improvement.

On March 7, SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson stressed the need for a substation in the unincorporated town. His comments, coupled with 4th District Supervisor Jimmy Paulding’s support for increased investment in Nipomo, resulted in a unanimous decision to add a local substation to the upcoming budget considerations.

With a population of 18,600 people across 15,000 square miles, Nipomo is comparable to its nearest city of Arroyo Grande, according to Parkinson.

“It’s 100 less in population now but three times bigger in geography, which equates to response times and services,” he told supervisors.

Currently, SLO County Sheriff’s deputies are dispatched to Nipomo from the Oceano substation during emergencies. Those deputies then use a report writing room near Tefft Street so that they can remain in Nipomo, but, Parkinson said, it’s completely different from having a substation.

“You have a response time issue from beginning of shift to end of shift to get from Oceano to Nipomo,” he said. “A substation would also include a community room, like in North County … that allows the public to meet and for you to meet with constituents.”

Further, some Nipomo residents hit roadblocks when they try to contact law enforcement. Susie Davison, 61, was born and raised in Nipomo. She now lives in Santa Maria but told the Sun that community members desperately want a substation with patrolling officers because of increased crime.

“Our tax dollars are paying for their paychecks,” she said. “It’s disheartening when our calls fall on deaf ears. We don’t get the same respect and protection as the rest of the county.”

In 2020, Davison’s cousin Debra Glenn was found dead in her home on Tefft Street in a much-publicized case where her family members allege murder and still want answers from the Sheriff’s Office. Davison and Glenn’s granddaughter Hope Goodall told the Sun that Glenn reported multiple break-ins to the Sheriff’s Office in the year leading up to her death. A sheriff’s substation in Nipomo could have resulted in a different outcome, they said.

“Someone could have helped her,” Goodall said. “She would call 911, they would never come to house or if they did, the intruder would have escaped by then.”

Jason Sweet, another Nipomo resident, told the Sun that despite multiple bikes being stolen from his yard, he stopped calling the Sheriff’s Office because “they aren’t going to do much about it.”

Five years ago, aggressive knocks on his door woke him up at 2 a.m. Sweet found people searching his front yard with flashlights. Someone had broken through his fence, and neighbors were looking for the culprit. Sweet said that sheriff’s deputies took roughly 30 minutes to get to his house.

“Imagine what would have happened if someone was trying to break in,” Sweet said.

Nipomo was poised to get a substation sooner because of a condition included in an agreement with Trilogy at Monarch Dunes—a large mixed-use project that contains residential homes, golf courses, and a business park. First approved in 2002, the Trilogy developer was required to provide 3,000 square feet of office space for a sheriff’s substation. 

But that agreement changed in 2017 when the developer shrunk the space to a minimum 200-square-foot facility and wanted to pay less than $600,000 of the estimated $1 million cost for its construction, with taxpayers funding the remainder. At the March 7 meeting, Parkinson revealed that the amended deal had fallen through.

“Unfortunately, the language that was crafted back when Trilogy began was ambiguous,” he said. “We believed that they had to build a substation. They believed they didn’t have to, and we had to pay for the substation.”

The Sheriff’s Office and county counsel negotiated another deal with Trilogy as an alternative to litigation. He said the developer agreed to give the county $300,000 for a future substation and pay for and build a report writing room in Trilogy. 

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