The $1.41 billion budget approved by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors this week for the 2022-23 fiscal year includes an unprecedented level of improvement projects ranging from art installations to law enforcement facilities.
“I’ve been here eight years, almost nine, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen that many [capital improvement projects] on this list that were general fund and special fund [or] ARPA funded,” said Mona Miyasato, county administrative officer.
Funds allocated for maintenance projects — painting, electrical upgrades, flooring replacement, roof and parking lot repairs — and for security and accessibility improvements and energy reduction and efficiency projects total more than $6.9 million.
Most of that work will take place at various facilities countywide, but a number of projects will directly benefit the North County, some far more visible than others.
Perhaps one of the most visible projects, at least for Santa Maria residents, isn’t technically a capital improvement project and it isn’t one with a big price tag, relatively speaking.
The $170,000 allocation will expand the “Valley of Light” public art installation by Hancock College design professor and artist Nancy Jo Ward at the County Government Center off Betteravia Road.
Seven tree-like structures have branches tipped with translucent leaves that at night glow in various colors from LED lights powered by the county’s solar panels at the center.
The funds will expand the installation by another 14 trees.
Another less visible project at the county’s Betteravia campus is weatherization work and window replacements, budgeted at $525,000.
But children will obviously benefit from new playground equipment and surfaces at Waller Park, part of a $380,000 project that includes work at Lookout Park near Goleta.
The budget also allocates $400,000 for reconfiguration of the Public Defender’s Office in Santa Maria and $250,000 to retrofit the North County communications shop.
One North County project with a high-dollar sticker price but that is virtually invisible to the general public is the study of a proposed multi-use trail along the Santa Maria River levee from Santa Maria to Guadalupe authorized by supervisors with $1.5 million from a litigation settlement.
Another hidden effort is the search for a permanent location for the Orcutt Library, for which $500,000 was allocated. The entire cost of providing the new library site is estimated at $2.3 million.
Campers and day users at Cachuma Lake Recreation Area will likely see noticeable improvements to the amphitheater with a $150,000 upgrade, but might not be aware of the swimming pool waterline replacement at $350,000.
About $400,000 will be spent on acquiring and planning pedestrian and equestrian trails along North Refugio Road in Santa Ynez.
In New Cuyama, the county will spend $150,000 on reconfiguring the sheriff’s substation and $11.3 million on construction of the Foothill Road bridge, which has a total estimated cost of $26 million.