Approximately 18,000 people call Nipomo 'home.' This makes it San Luis Obispo County’s largest unincorporated area and population growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“There are big developments that will significantly increase the population if those projects progress or as they progress. It's going to no doubt increase the need for law enforcement in Nipomo," said Chief Deputy Nate Paul, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office.
Those big developments include the Dana Reserve Project which would add about 5,000 more residents to Nipomo. That’s why the years-long discussion about a San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s substation is back at the forefront.
The sheriff’s presence isn’t absent in Nipomo but when a 911 call comes in, response times can vary.
“The challenge with Nipomo is the highway and the fact that the town is divided into the east and west sides of Highway 101, and as it continues to grow on both sides, sometimes, especially at certain times of day, it can be hard to get across the freeway to the other side of town," Paul explained.
Right now, deputies based in Oceano respond to calls in Nipomo. Over the years, those calls for help have increased.
In 2018, the agency responded to 10,600 calls. They saw a slight dip during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then in 2022, they responded to just over 13,000 calls.
“We know that we need a sheriff's substation. I heard directly from the citizens that they wanted to see more of a law enforcement presence in Nipomo," said District 4 Supervisor Jimmy Paulding.
It’s an idea some Nipomo community members fully support.
“I think for public safety concerns, it's always a nice thing to have more police protection available in terms of knowing that you have that sort of support and comfort," said Nipomo resident Robin Beadle.
On March 7, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to add the cost of designing a Nipomo substation to the county budget discussions.
“The county already owns a piece of property in the old town area in Nipomo, and what was discussed at our meeting was essentially how to move forward with the design process," Paulding added.
The design process is estimated to cost $1.2 million. The total project cost is expected to be between $11 million and $15 million.
Chief Deputy Paul told KSBY the substation will be similar to the one built in Templeton.
“With the substation based in Nipomo, our deputies will start and stop their shifts there, as well as any administrative stuff that they have to do during a shift that would require them to go back to a substation. They're still in the community that they're serving as opposed to driving from Nipomo back up to Oceano," Paul explained.
He also said the sheriff’s office is working with the county to determine how many additional deputies they’ll need to hire.
The next step includes discussion during the June budget hearings which will determine whether the county will move forward with funding for the design phase of the project. There will also be more opportunities for community members to share their thoughts.