Over the holiday I got to thinking about the busy year ahead of our county, and want to share my current vision for everyone in Eastern Madera County.
Being that we are only now getting out of a deficit, my first priority is to continue to meet our healthy budget goals by staying out of the red. By meeting these goals we will be able to better serve constituents and create additional opportunities for future generations. As always I will continue to work to keep development cost low, support smart growth in our communities and maintain a common sense platform.
Currently we are working on updating and improving some internal processes both on the Information Technology side of things and the agenda process. It is my hope that these efforts will not only make it easier for constituents to look up information, but also save staff time and money.
Additionally, staff is working hard to ensure that we keep our recently received A+ credit rating, complete the annual audit ahead of schedule, and continue to look for ways to save taxpayer dollars where possible.
In 2015 we completed a compensation salary study that pointed out Madera County staff salaries are much lower than our comparable neighboring counties. In an effort to retain great employees we will start implementing incremental increases as appropriate beginning with public safety personnel. So often we train great employees who then transfer to neighboring counties - with this effort we hope to retain the expertise that we have and build off of it.
We continue to work on branding and tourism efforts throughout the county. This year, I am excited to share that we will be putting a “Welcome to Madera County” sign as you enter Madera County from Highway 41. We currently have a committee in place that is coming up with a unique design.
Sport industry tourism has proven to be an opportunity for the county so we will be exploring options to host large scale sporting events in hopes to get Madera County on the map.
We are also pursuing a multiple-grant funded opportunity to create a new recreational park off Highway 41 that could bring new visitors to the area.
There continues to be opportunities to enhance connectivity among transportation needs in Eastern Madera County and I intend to push for this. Currently I am in conversations with Madera County Connection (transit) to see what other route options may be needed and feasible to include on their routes.
Furthermore, I am in communication with Fresno Council of Governments to incorporate pick up locations that could assist rural residents get down the hill for doctors’ appointments or airport needs.
With the New Year comes a new format for my Town Hall meetings. This year I will be hosting eight regular Town Hall meetings - one in Yosemite Lakes Park, Raymond, Coarsegold, North Fork, Bass Lake and Ahwahnee, as well as two in Oakhurst. In addition, I anticipate special topic Town Hall meetings as needed. This year’s topics will include, but are not limited to, local community college efforts, air board projects and programs, Madera County Connection updates, gray water and rain water resources, fire prevention, tree mortality and current conditions.
As always the California Highway Patrol, sheriff, district attorney, auditor and other county experts will be available upon request to answer constituent questions at these meetings.
Even though we are seeing a lot of moisture right now, our historic drought conditions are expected to linger and with that we will continue to see dead and dying trees. Throughout the year I will continue to participate in the Governor’s Tree Mortality Task Force and look for local, state and federal opportunities to help private land owners.
Currently there are a variety of collaborative efforts underway focusing on public safety including the removal of hazard trees along public roadways, public infrastructure, and utility concerns. We have already seen a lot of work occur and look forward to getting as much done before the 2016 fire season.
While I will be stepping down as chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board, it was a true honor to serve and I am looking forward to participating as a board member with the great leadership team of 2016.
I will be going to Washington D.C. again this year to communicate to Congress the great need to update the EPA rules/standards that have not been changed in 30 years. It is clear that we will never be able to meet the standards and that they need to be updated to reflect current conditions to avoid excessive financial penalties on vehicle license fees. As of now, even if all the vehicles in the San Joaquin Valley were eliminated, we could still not meet the current standards.
Additional goals for 2016 include:
* Construction of a new shopping center along Highway 41 and Yosemite Springs Way.
* The completion and opening of three new hotels on Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
* Expand local Big Brothers Big Sisters program initiatives in Eastern Madera County where possible.
* Continue to look for opportunities to assist with the homelessness challenges in Eastern Madera County.
* Break ground on the cross-town connection road improvement project along Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
* An extra lane from Highway 41 to Avenue 12.
* Break ground on the Highway 41 four lanes project from 22 Mile House house to rocky cut.
* Support the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians with their Highway 99 casino project.
* Continue to work with the newly formed groundwater authority to ensure local control. Continue to analyze water conditions and enforce limits on watering days as needed.
* Continue to partner and participate with Yosemite National Park on anniversary events.
* Host and support the Inter-Agency Community Collaborative group connecting county representatives with community groups to assist our mountain youth.
* Continue to encourage that the High Speed Rail maintenance yard be located in Madera County in order to create job opportunities for county workers.
* Begin planning efforts for the largest capital improvement project the county has ever taken on - one building that would consolidate most social service functions county wide in one building on Road 28.
* Continuing with my monthly Town Hall meetings throughout Eastern Madera County.
While this overview outlines several important initiatives for this year, it only touches on some of the items that I am looking forward to working on in 2016. I hope the economy continues to grow and that we will have a robust 2016 with many great years to follow.
I am always open to new ideas and like a good challenge, so please feel free to contact me with any thoughts.