With summer approaching and the Guerneville homeless shelter closing Sonoma County Supervisors agreed to give more than $100,000 to the Russian River Chamber of Commerce last week for heightened security measures.
“We have the summer coming and that tends to be a time of heightened activity,” said Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo in support of the new security funding. “I know this service is well-received by the merchants and by visitors as well,” said Carrillo. “Guerneville merchants have been working on this for some time.”
The new agreement will transfer approximately $103,000 for the chamber to contract for security services provided by the Santa Rosa-based private security form SOCO. The county began funding SOCO’s Guerneville services last summer to keep security patrols present downtown with a focus on weekends when the town fills up with a diversity of visitors from beachgoers and bar patrons to homeless residents and vacation renters.
“Just in anecdotal conversations that I’ve had with merchants and other folks in the downtown Guerneville area there’s been some very positive response” to the SOCO security services, said Carrillo.
The money derives from former Russian River Redevelopment Agency funding originally earmarked for a sheriff’s deputy assigned specifically to the lower River.
Two years ago the county approved $249,100 in Reinvestment and Revitalization (“R&R”) funding to the Sheriff’s Department to hire an additional deputy to provide enhanced security in the lower Russian River area. Due to staffing shortages the Sheriff’s Department has not been able to use all of the allocated funds, said Sonoma County General Services spokesman Jeremy Scannell in a report to the board last week.
The county has been hearing complaints from community members regarding security concerns at the County-owned Guerneville Veteran’s Memorial Building and the town plaza, said Scannell’s report. Last summer the county approved a one-time payment of $35,000 from the General Fund to the Russian River Chamber of Commerce for security services. The contract expired in December of 2015.
The new agreement will allow the Chamber to receive reimbursement for continued security services provided by SOCO “to bridge the gap in services previously provided and paid for by the Sheriff’s Department, said Scannell.
Because the new agreement is to provide security services that have recently been provided, is for a relatively short duration of time, and the security services are needed immediately, “a competitive solicitation is not warranted at this time,” said Scannell. SOCO has provided satisfactory services in the past and has a proven track record of working with both the sheriff and with homeless support services to address ongoing concerns, said Scannell’s report.
With the increase in tourism and popularity, the lower Russian River and surrounding areas are experiencing an increase in criminal activity including trespassing, public intoxication, illegal drug activity, and some instances of assault and battery, said Scannell’s report. County-owned properties such as the Veteran’s Memorial Building, public rest rooms and town plaza have recently experienced a higher level of property damage than in prior years necessitating increased security and law enforcement presence, said Scannell’s report.
To address the recent spike in these nuisance and criminal activities, the Chamber will utilize funding from this agreement to continue an enhanced security project aimed at providing additional patrols throughout the Lower Russian River area. Funds will be used to contract with SOCO to provide patrols at targeted locations during the most high-traffic days from Thursdays to Sundays, focusing in Guerneville at the Veterans Memorial Building, Johnson’s Beach and the surrounding downtown area. The Chamber will also work closely with the Sheriff’s Office to ensure the most effective coordination of resources. SOCO has been able to alert the Sheriff’s Department when necessary if suspected criminal activity is observed, said Scannell.