While the grand jury currently has a place to call home, a permanent office was requested Tuesday. The county supervisors instructed staff to look at all county-owned buildings, and decide which would meet all the jury’s requirements, including handicap accessibility.
Gary Powell, foreman of the grand jury, also asked the board for an additional $4,990.
“We need money,” Powell said. “I have no answers or excuses. We just need money.”
He added that the Madera grand jury is “next to the last” as far as small budgets in the state. This, Powell said, is the reason the jury will request an increase in that budget for the next fiscal year.
The office space the jury now uses is paid for by the courts at a rate of $550 per month, he said. If new office space is not found, the county will have to absorb that cost after Nov. 15.
The biggest cost, he said, is the mileage to bring all the jury members together for the required meetings each month. While 11 of the members live on the Valley floor, the other eight live in the mountains.
“That’s run up most of our expenses,” Powell explained. “We figured wrong. We miscalculated.”
He added that he and the jury’s treasurer have looked at “all kinds of things to keep the budget what it was in the past” but are “unable to do so.”
Board Chairman Ronn Dominici suggested the jury move around, hold some of its meetings in the mountains, to save on mileage. He also suggested the members car pool, and even offered use of a county van to transport all of the Valley members to the mountains for meetings.
“We understand where you’re coming from,” Supervisor Vern Moss said. “But the next two to three years is going to be very tight. At some time, you’re going to have to live within what (the county budgets) for your department.”
“It’s not one of my favorite things,” Powell said, “to come before this board to ask for money.”
Several suggestions as to where the jury could meet were given, including the old road department building as well as the planning department’s former home.
“Public space cost money,” Moss said. “And there isn’t any. We need to get the word out, don’t come asking for money.”
Supervisor John Silva made the motion to have staff look at the empty, county owned buildings, and which of these places would meet the jury’s needs and bring the item back to the board once that “over of empty county buildings” is done.