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SLO County budgetary belt-tightening may close Atascadero public records office

Courtesy of the Hind Foundation
The Atascadero Library.

A north San Luis Obispo County government office may close or possibly reduce services. The county’s clerk-recorder says time constraints and looming budget cuts are prompting reconsideration about operations at its small Atascadero office. But for north county residents who frequent the office, this may mean more expense and longer drives to San Luis Obispo to file documents.

Cordelia Perry runs the San Luis Obispo County Builders Exchange, a trade association for local contractors. She said she makes sure her network of about 500 members know about projects that are out for bids and keeps tabs on required documents for the construction industry, as well as projects that haven’t been paid for.

“Every Tuesday, I go into the north county office and I get this information and we publish it,” Perry said. “It’s a matter of public record.”

Perry said because certain documents have to be filed in person, half her members use the office above the Atascadero Library. She said the location used to have a planning department office too, but the county moved it. So when staff told her the county clerk’s office may close and move to San Luis Obispo, she said it was going to be a hassle. 

“They don’t need to take the staff, move them to San Luis [Obispo] and inconvenience the north county residents that much more,” Perry said. “Anyone that lives in the north county knows it takes you an hour to get anywhere.”

San Luis Obispo County’s Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gongsaid he’s working to transfer many of the clerk duties to the county’s administrative department. Because, “election work for the office has increased quite a bit,” Gong said.

In addition to keeping track of official and vital records, Gong’s office also conducts elections. He said changes to state voting and voter registration systems now keep his office working year-round on elections.

“With some of the changing laws, regarding vote-by-mail, we’re having to revamp our process of having to look at those during the off-season,” Gong said.

Gong said this, combined with budgetary constraints across the county, has prompted him to take a hard look at departmental operations rather than ask for a budget increase.

“I want to be a team player for the county,” Gong said. “The county’s going through budget cuts as we speak right now. So it is kind of tough, to ask for some resources to keep that office open.”

Perry said the San Luis Obispo County Builders Exchange can sympathize with belt-tightening.

“We all understand budgets," Perry said. "We are all business owners."

Both Gong and Perry say they’ve been working on a compromise that would would turn the north county office into a part-time office.

“It’s not what we really want, nor what we should get as tax payers in the north county,” Perry said. “But two or three days a week is better than zero days a week.”

Gong aid he’s currently floating other options that would give access to north county residents to computers for filing at the location and also plans to keep the office fully open during election season. But nothing is finalized yet. He said he expects the issue to go before the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on May 21.

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