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Board Chairman Pete Vander Poel Delivers State of the County Address

Board Chairman Pete Vander Poel Delivers State of the County Address

Good morning and thank you for attending today’s meeting.

Before I begin I would like to thank past Chairman Mike Ennis, fellow Tulare County Board members, elected officials, our CAO and his staff, department heads and employees for their hard work, dedication, and leadership this past year.

2016 Year in Review

Working together, we have achieved many great accomplishments in 2016.

One collaboration in particular stands out, and that is our emergency drought response partnership with state and federal agencies and the City of Porterville. This resulted in the first of many homes in East Porterville being connected to the City of Porterville’s water network. The work in East Porterville is far from over, but progress is underway to connect hundreds of additional households to the system.  We continue to work collectively with partner agencies to provide a permanent solution for the remaining homes in that community.

Other major achievements the County accomplished in 2016 include breaking ground on our new South County Detention Facility in Porterville and purchasing the Tulare/Akers Professional Center.

The County continues to promote economic development activities throughout the County. To highlight a few of these: we assisted Foster Farms with a $17 million expansion of an organic feed mill in Traver, the first phase of what will eventually be a $60 million expansion. We assisted Setton Farms of Terra Bella in its efforts to permit more than a dozen massive silos to significantly grow their international sales of pistachios. Additionally, the County celebrated the opening of a new McDonalds in Earlimart.

Our Tulare County Fire Department and CalFire boldly fought the 30,000 acre Cedar Fire and successfully saved hundreds of threatened homes in our South Valley mountain communities without any injuries. In addition, Tulare County Fire doubled its station staffing in Terra Bella to improve response times in the South County area. Tulare County Fire also partnered with the Resource Management Agency to obtain $460,000 in grant funding to purchase tools, equipment and a new Water Tender.

The Office of the Tulare County District Attorney and the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department partnered with seven other law enforcement agencies to form a new Tulare County Human Trafficking Task Force. This greatly expanded the effort by local law enforcement to hold accountable those who abuse others and to help end the suffering of affected crime victims. 

In 2016 Tulare County remained fiscally sound and passed a balanced budget that provided ample funding to all county departments, made necessary salary adjustments, and increased our financial reserves. This Board will remain dedicated to fiscal responsibility and living within our means, regardless of Federal and State budget impacts.   

In addition, our efforts in succession planning were demonstrated by filling several senior department head vacancies without any interruption in department operations or customer service. 

As Chairman in 2017, I plan to move Tulare County down a path towards a sustainable future for a strong quality of life for the people of Tulare County. Like every County, we have our challenges, but I believe if we are proactive in preparing for those challenges, we can withstand any obstacles that come our way.

Today, I would like to cover some key issues facing our County that will challenge our ability to be sustainable. I will share some strategies including the proposal of a financial plan and ways in continuing economic development efforts to combat these potential challenges. In addition, I will touch on some work of our various County Departments and what you can expect to see in 2017.

Strategic Financing Plan

In maintaining the Board’s focus on fiscal responsibility, I would like this Board to consider the adoption of a Strategic Financing Plan to address current and future financial challenges that will serve the best interests of the residents of Tulare County.   

To implement, I ask our County Administrative Officer to return as soon as possible with an agenda item to go before the Board in proposing the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee of this Board to help guide the preparation and presentation later this year of this Plan.

This proposed strategic financing plan should prudently address the following key components:

(1) Potential reorganization of the County’s financial services departments;

(2) Construction, operational staffing and provisionf health services for the criminal justice and public safety facilities now under construction;

(3) Construction of transportation improvements and infrastructure to better our rural communities, roads, bridges, water facilities, wastewater facilities, flood control facilities, and parks;

(4) Public employee compensation including health benefits, retirement and salary; and

(5) Structural balancing of key departmental budgets that are routinely in deficit.

Economic Development

This Board will continue to promote economic development within Tulare County.

 This means the County will seek to guide, where feasible, economic development by creating the conditions under which business development can thrive. This includes maintaining a business friendly permit process, a reasonable permit fee structure, and the expeditious construction of public improvements and infrastructure.  

It continues to be our policy to help create private sector jobs, increase the income of our residents, and add value to our local real estate and businesses. In doing so the goal is what our CAO regularly proclaims: “the rising tide will lift all boats.”

To help accomplish this goal, we intend to continue to proactively work with our partners and stakeholders, including, our cities. We truly are all in this together.

Looking ahead, an important part of the County’s ongoing economic development program will be to approve a “Target Marketing Plan.” I would request the CAO to return to this Board this year with a proposed Target Marketing Plan designed to promote economic development on a countywide basis.

Looking forward to 2017 Departmental Projects

I want to share with all of you some of the projects and programs we expect to turn out this year. With more than 4,200 employees working in 22 departments, we have hundreds of programs, services and projects happening throughout the year. I will not be able to cover all however, I do want to share a few in particular to be on the lookout for.

First off, I would like to start with the return of evening meetings of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors this year.  Five Board meetings in 2017 will be held during the evening hours and will be located throughout the County, one in each Supervisorial District.  This effort brings the County to the people and improves the accessibility of the Board to members of the public unable to attend Tuesday Board meetings at 9am.

I would also like to mention my anticipation of the results of the efforts put forward by various newly constituted Advisory Committees.  The Homeless Task Force will have a busy year collaborating with all jurisdictions in the County to address the many issues surrounding homelessness.  The Parks Advisory Committee and the Animal Services Advisory Committee will also be busy helping to guide the operation/policy of their respective subject areas. 

Moving on to additional Departmental efforts upcoming over the next year.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux and his Department are to be commended for continually bringing forward innovative ways to strengthen local public safety.

The Sheriff also recently established a robust Internet Child Safety Campaign that seeks to engage parents, educate the public and enforce laws. This program’s focus on the three E’s will prove a useful means of protecting our children.

In addition, the Sheriff just rolled out a SmartWater CSI program - the first law enforcement agency in the western United States to employ the use of a forensic tracking system that uses “mineral DNA” markers to

paint property that, if stolen, can be tracked and traced, and thus help prevent and reduce ag crimes in the number one Ag county in the nation.

This year the District Attorney’s Office will use a recently obtained grant from Cal OES to expand its elder abuse program, allowing for increased capacity to serve victims and to help strengthen a countywide coordinated response to elder abuse.

The District Attorney moved just weeks ago to also strengthen efforts by the Child Abuse Response Team to provide comfort to younger victims during various interactions by deploying Fortune, a K-9 who in just a few short weeks of service has become one of the most popular members of the District Attorney’s team. We applaud the DA’s commitment to providing comfort and dignity to crime victims and their family members as they are faced with the aftermath of some of the most difficult and traumatic events in our society.

RMA will make a presentation later today that represents 28 important community improvements totaling more than $5 million-worth of road and school safety projects

Additionally, construction will start this fall to widen Caldwell Avenue to four lanes from Akers to Highway 99. This is a $14 million project.

Soon to be under construction is the Earlimart Community Park. This project is a creative collaboration of state parks funding, County funding, school funding and state and county Safe Routes to Schools funding.  In addition to the $2 million state grant, the County is contributing $1 million to create this cutting-edge recreation area equipped with numerous state of the art amenities.  This project will be completed before Christmas.

A $2.4 million project will repave a five mile stretch from the Kings County/Tulare County line to State Route 99.  This road segment is one of the most heavily traveled dairy roads in our County.  Construction begins this summer and will be completed by this fall.

RMA is also set to begin final design and construction of a new $5 million Seville water system and will begin construction next month of a new $2.1 million Monson water system.

57 County intersections will receive safety improvements this year. These projects will enhance visibility and provide other safety features at various intersections in the county and are to be done at a cost of $1.2 million. Construction begins this spring and will be completed by summer.

A $680,000 bridge replacement project on the Traver Canal will begin this fall and be completed by the end of the year. The bridge is located along old State Highway 99 just south of Avenue 368.

The Avenue 196 at Orange Belt Signal Project will retrofit the existing signal at the intersection, converting the current pre-timed signal to an actuated signal.  The update will reduce traffic delays and reduce vehicle emissions. The $400,000 project is grant funded begins this spring and will be completed this summer

The final RMA project I will highlight is the Avenue 144 Overlay.  This $3.5 million high priority Farm 2 Market project consists of approximately 5 miles of road rehabilitation starting at State Route 99 heading toward State Route 43. The project begins this spring and will be completed this summer.

Moving on to the County Space Planning project.  Last year we purchased the Tulare/Akers Professional Center also known as the CIGNA building, and tremendous efforts have been made by the space planning ad hoc committee to prepare this building for occupancy by the Sheriff’s Administration as well as the Tulare County Fire Administration. We also are near agreement to lease out remaining commercial space and provide additional revenue to the County.

We anticipate that by this summer, our Human Resources and Development department will be fully relocated in the former planetarium building that has been fully remodeled and revamped to fit the needs of the Department. Once that move occurs, our County Counsel’s Office will expand and utilize the space freed up by the relocation of HR&D. 

The Board’s goals to continuously improve County facilities, will be seen again as our Child Support Services will be modernizing and making improvements to its various offices. This will give team members, as well as the public, improved spaces for interaction. 

2017 is an exciting year of change for the Tulare County Library.

The Tulare County Library is opening three new locations this fiscal year.  The new London Branch Library just opened in October. In the coming months the County will also open new branch libraries in Farmersville and Pixley.

Significant improvements to broadband internet service will be deployed in 11 Library Branches this year, including Visalia, Three Rivers, Exeter, Ivanhoe, Woodlake, Dinuba, Tipton, Earlimart, Springville, Lindsay, and Orosi.

Working with the California State Library, the Library's Literacy program began offering the Career Online High School scholarship program to our County residents. Two students have already graduated and another two are currently enrolled.  Thanks to additional funding from the State Library and a Edison Grant through the Tulare County Library Foundation, an additional 7 scholarships are still available for this program.

Our Health and Human Services Agency in collaboration with Tulare County Probation have worked together this past year on the implementation of AB 403, better known as the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR) for foster care. Starting this month, the new law changes the foster care system to reduce congregate care utilization, to ensure youth have their physical, mental and emotional needs provided for in their own communities, and to better prepare and support the families who care for youth. Over time, it is expected these reforms will further improve the outcomes for foster children, as well as work to reduce the overall length of stay for the youth in the foster care system.

The Mental Health Branch of HHSA, in cooperation with the Tulare County Housing Authority, has begun construction on two permanent supportive housing sites, one in Porterville and the other in Tulare. This

exemplifies the wellness and recovery model designed to nurture and promote wellness, recovery and resiliency of the consumers of mental health services.

And to now to conclude…

This Board is dedicated to laying the groundwork for a viable future for Tulare County. We plan to look ahead and not only address the challenges approaching us tomorrow, but also prepare for the obstacles we expect will come our way in the years to come. We continue down the path the Board has historically traveled upon and we will strive to lay the foundation for a sustainable future.

Thank you for your attendance at today’s 2017 State of the County Address.