Riverside County supervisors next week will consider revising policies to allow Sheriff Chad Bianco and his staff to take over management of facilities maintenance at sheriff’s buildings, as well as independently handle future public works projects — cutting out the county Economic Development Agency to net savings.

Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Chuck Washington jointly introduced the proposal to grant the sheriff’s department autonomy in the procurement of janitorial and upkeep services for detention and administrative buildings, along with hiring engineering and architectural firms for planned projects.

“By empowering the sheriff’s department with the ability to oversee and manage these services, they may realize significant savings that will allow them to help meet their budget goals and spend money on improving public safety in the community, rather than bureaucracy,” the supervisors wrote in a statement attached to Tuesday’s policy agenda.

The sheriff’s budget consumes the largest share of public safety allocations and is among the leading cost-drivers for the county every fiscal year. According to Jeffries and Washington, internal service funds have a major impact on the sheriff’s expenditures. ISFs comprise all the agencies within county government that provide inter-agency services.

The Economic Development Agency is an ISF department and generally takes charge of other agencies’ janitorial, landscaping, electrical and plumbing needs, in addition to serving as the point entity for public works requirements.

Most of its personnel are unionized.

“Costs in EDA-controlled areas have increased over 50% since fiscal year 2014/15 and have outpaced the Board of Supervisors’ approved budget allocation, fiscal year after fiscal year,” according to the supervisors’ proposal. “These cost increases are unsustainable and not only impact the sheriff’s operating budget, but are passed on to (the department’s) contract city partners as facility rate increases.”

Jeffries and Washington underscored their concern with escalating ISF expenditures by noting that in the last fiscal year, the sheriff’s building maintenance costs totaled $9 million, while the projection this year is for an aggregate $13 million to be spent.

The supervisors complained of “unclear justifications” for the surging expenses.

Under their proposal, Bianco and his staff would have the discretion to seek contracts for custodial and other facilities maintenance with private entities to reduce operational costs.

They’re also proposing to permit the sheriff to independently — without EDA’s input — enter into agreements for furniture and fixtures acquisitions.

The proposal further seeks to displace EDA as the ultimate authority on architectural and engineering services, putting the sheriff’s staff in the driver’s seat on which consultants and companies to hire for planning and preparation. Jeffries and Washington noted that EDA’s ISF fees for overseeing public works projects can run anywhere from 2% to 20% of the overall outlays for a project’s budget.

“Since the sheriff typically has in excess of 30-plus public works projects in various stages at any given time, the potential savings to the department would be substantial if given authority to manage their own public works projects,” according to the supervisors.

Clearing the way for the sheriff to gain control of the maintenance, planning and other services contracts will require revisions to Board policies B-11 and H-7.

EDA Director Rob Field and others are expected to address the matter before the board makes a decision.

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