Santa Barbara County government services in Lompoc are being reduced, a move that will force city residents to go online or travel to Santa Maria.
In a move designed to fill a $150,000 shortfall in the budget of the County Clerk, Recorder and Assessor’s office, the Lompoc branch office will be open only on Mondays, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., providing such services as marriage licenses, marriage ceremonies and real estate recordings, said Mary Rose Bryson, recorder division manager.
Elections and recorder functions will be moved to Santa Maria effective April 1, Bryson said. Two employees will be transferred to Santa Maria and the Assessor employee will remain at least part-time in Lompoc, but with reduced hours, Bryson said. The office may close at lunchtime, she said. The Santa Barbara and Santa Maria offices will continue to be open Monday through Friday.
Residents can access some county services online and through the mail in all three sections of the County Clerk’s office, which will ease the impact on Lompoc residents, Bryson said.
The news was roundly criticized by community activist Joyce Howerton, who recently announced that she will challenge 4th District Supervisor Joni Gray in the June 5 primary election.
“We currently have one of the highest unemployment rates in the county. Gas prices are at an all-time high. The total disregard for the community of Lompoc is troubling and it’s disappointing,” said Howerton, a former Lompoc mayor.
“People go to the county for many different services —marriage licenses, birth certificates, research on property. It serves so many different needs and now they are telling the people of Lompoc that if you want to access the county you have to go to Santa Maria,” Howerton said. “This is just unacceptable.”
Bryson said the decision to reduce some services and move others in order to cut expenses and save jobs was made by Joseph E. Holland, county clerk, recorder and assessor, and was explained in budget hearings as well as to county CEO Chandra Wallar and Supervisor Gray.
The main traffic generator at the county office in Lompoc was the need for passports and that service was eliminated a year ago and transferred to the city Parks and Recreation office, Bryson said. New federal regulations forced that move because they prohibited the office from handling passports and birth certificates, according to county budget documents.
Bryson said only 1.5 percent of the countywide workload in the Recorder’s section is done in Lompoc.
Gray said she felt better about the changes after speaking with Holland and learning about the decreasing workload in Lompoc and the availability of services online.
“Do I like it? No. But I know the passports was one of the big things they did,” Gray said. She added that Holland will send elections workers back to the Lompoc office at election time.
“I called and complained; he promised he would have someone here on Mondays and they would have someone here for the elections stuff.”
Howerton discounted the claim that Lompoc generates very little traffic to county offices. She also criticized Gray for failing to notify the community and to fight to keep the offices open and the services in Lompoc.
“We have no leadership. We need someone who will be there and be a voice for the people of Lompoc.
“Find the money. They can find it to keep the office open in Santa Maria and they can find the money to keep the office open in Santa Barbara, they can find the money to keep this office open.”
Howerton said she was angered by the news.
“This is going to be a hardship for a lot of people in the community and the people have heard nothing. That’s just not acceptable.”