Social services looks to secure its building

Worried about the safety of its employees and clients, the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services is asking the Board of Supervisors to sign off on a $227,000 project designed to make its headquarters at South Higuera Street and Prado Road in San Luis Obispo more secure.

Department Director Lee Collins said his department, using a federal grant, has worked to protect personal information online.

“We have improved the typical kinds of technological firewalls and password-access and those kinds of things,” Collins wrote in an email.

Now is it is time to improve the security of the building and surrounding property, he wrote, using the remainder of the grant.

“Because of the 24/7 nature of our work, we do have folks coming and going during the evening and night, but I try not to publicize that too much,” he wrote. “There are never too many at a time, and that makes them a bit nervous.

“Trees and shrubs have grown substantially since they first were planted,” he went on. “In some cases, existing light standards are of little use because their light is shielded by these same trees.”

Collins said that in winter in particular, some areas of the lot are “very dark, and some staff and visitors have been startled by folks — often their own co-workers, of course — appearing ‘from nowhere’ as they come around the shrub.”

Collins said the safety upgrades are a preventive measure.

“We want to ensure that our staff and visitors have a clean, well-lighted passageway to their automobiles.”

He added that his workers don’t face anything “quite as dramatic for us as attacks or overt threats.” They do, however, receive a “fair share of verbal threats.”

The improvements will include eight new light poles in the parking area, new light fixtures on the building façade and a clearly lined pedestrian walkway, among other amenities.

It will take a four-fifths vote of supervisors to approve the project.